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'5[ kl^ f\ Accession No/-^ I ^ 61 
Author J^VLx { u. / t- ' 

Title ^ (; C^stU 

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A Year of the Slump 


A Study in the Imaginative 
literature of 1870-1930 





OF 1870-1930 




COPYRIGHT, 1931 , By 

Printed in the United States of America 

AU rights reserved. No part of this book 
may be reproduced in any form without 
the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons 


Dear Christian Gauss: 

You will sec how these essays have grown out of your 
lectures of fifteen years ago. But it is not merely on that 
account that I have felt I owe you a debt in connection 
with them. It was principally from you that I acquired 
then my idea of what literary criticism ought to be a his- 
tory of man's ideas and imaginings in the setting of the 
conditions which have shaped them. And though this 
bool^ is only a very limited and a very incomplete attempt 
at that sort of history, I have wanted to dedicate it to you 
in acknowledgment of the fondness and instruction 
which, beginning when 1 was at college, have continued 
ever since, and as a tribute to a master of criticism who 
has taught much in insisting little. 

Yours as ever, 

Edmund Wilson. 






'fv, T. S. ELIOT 93 






INDEX 313 



TT is my purpose in this book to try to trace the origins 
-L of certain tendencies in contemporary literature and to 
show their development in the work of six contemporary 
writers. To persons already familiar with the field, my 
explanations in this first chapter will seem rudimentary; 
but I believe that it is still true in general, for reasons 
which I shall suggest, that the sources and fundamental 
principles of many of the books which have excited most 
discussion during the period since the War are singularly 
little understood. It is not usually recognized that writers 
such as W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude 
Stein, Marcel Proust and Paul Valery represent the cul- 
mination of a self-conscious and very important literary 
movement; and even when we have become aware that 
these writers have something in common, that they belong 
to a common school, we are likely to be rather vague as to 
what its distinguishing features are. 

We do, however, to-day as a rule have a pretty clear 
idea of the issues which were raised by the Romantic 
Movement of the beginning of the nineteenth century. 
We still debate Classicism and Romanticism, and when 
we attempt to deal with contemporary literary problems, 
we often tend to discuss them in those terms. Yet the 
movement of which in our own day we are witnessing 
Jhe mature development is not merely a degeneration or 


an elaboration of Romanticism, but rather a counterpart 
to it, a second flood of the same tide. And even the meta- 
phor of a tide is misleading: what we have to-day is an 
entirely distinct movement, which has arisen from dif- 
ferent conditions and must be dealt with in different 

Romanticism, as everyone has heard, was a revolt of the 
individual. The "Classicism" against which it was a re- 
action meant, in the domain of politics and morals, a 
preoccupation with society as a whole; and, in art, an ideal 
JD objectivity. In "Le Misanthrope," in "Berenice," in 
""The Way of the World," in "Gulliver's Travels," the art- 
ist is out of the picture: he would consider it artistic bad 
taste to identify his hero with himself and to glorify him- 
self with his hero, or to intrude between the reader and 
the story and give vent to his personal emotions. But in 
"Rene,," in "Rolla," in "Childe Harold," in "The Pre- 
lude," the writer is either his own hero, or unmistakably 
identified with his hero, and the personality and emo- 
tions of the writer are presented as the principal subject 
of interest. Racine, Moliere, Congreve and Swift ask us to 
be interested in what they have made; but Chateaubriand, 
Musset, Byron and Wordsworth ask us to be interested in 
themselves. And they ask us to be interested in themselves 
by virtue of the intrinsic value of the individual: they 
vindicate the rights of the individual against the claims 
of society as a whole against government, morals, con- 
ventions, academy or church. The Romantic is nearly al- 
ways a rebel. 


In this connection, it is illuminating to consider the 
explanation of the Romantic Movement given by A. N. 
Whitehead in his "Science and the Modern World." The 
Romantic Movement, Whitehead says, was really a re- 
action against scientific ideas, or rather against the mech- 
anistic ideas to which certain scientific discoveries gave 
rise. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were in 
Europe the great period of the development of mathemati- 
cal and physical theory; and in the literature of the so- 
called Classical period, Descartes and Newton were influ- 
ences as important as those of the classics themselves. The 
poets, like the astronomers and mathematicians, had come 
to regard the universe as a machine, obeying logical laws 
and susceptible of reasonable explanation: God figured 
merely as the clockmaker who must have existed to make 
the clock. People applied this conception also to society, 
which, from the point of view of Louis XIV and of the 
American Constitution alike, had the character of a plane- 
tary system or a well-regulated machine; and they ex- 
amined human nature dispassionately, in the same lucid 
and reasonable spirit, to find the principles on which it 
worked. Thus the theorems of the physicist were matched 
by the geometrical plays of Racine and the balanced coup- 
lets of Pope. 

But this conception of a fixed mechanical order came 
eventually to be felt as a constraint: it excluded too much 
of life or rather, the description it supplied did not corre- 
spond to actual experience. The Romantics had become 
acutely conscious of aspects of their experience which 



it was impossible to analyze or explain on the theory of a 
world run by clockwork. The universe was not a ma- 
chine, after all, but something more mysterious and less 

'The atoms of Dcmocritus, 

And Newton's particles of light 
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore, 
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright!" 

Blake had already contradicted contemptuously the physi- 
cal theory of the eighteenth century. And to Wordsworth, 
the countryside of his boyhood meant neither agriculture 
nor neo-classic idylls, but a light never seen onjand or 
sea. When the poet looked into his own soul, he beheld 
something which did not seem to him reducible to a set 
of principles of human nature such, for example, as La 
Rochefoucauld's "Maxims": he saw fantasy, conflict, con- 
fusion. And he either set himself, like Wordsworth and 
Blake, to affirm the superior truth of this vision as com- 
pared to the mechanical universe of the physicists; or, ac- 
cepting this mechanical universe, like Byron or Alfred de 
Vigny, as external to and indifferent to man, he pitted 
against it, in defiance, his own turbulent insubordinate 

In any case, it is always, as in Wordsworth, the individ- 
ua^jensibility, or, as in Byron, the individuaLjYJH* with 
which the Romantic poet is preoccupied; and he has in- 
vented a new language for the expression of its mystery, 
its conflict and confusion. The arena of literature has been 


transferred from the universe conceived as a machine, 
from society conceived as an organization, to the individ- 
ual soul. 

What has really taken place, says Whitehead, is a philo- 
sophical revolution. The scientists of the seventeenth cen- 
tury who presented the universe as a mechanism had 
caused people to draw the conclusion that man was some- 
thing apart from nature, something introduced into the 
universe from outside and remaining alien to all that he 
found. But a Romantic poet like Wordsworth has come to 
feel the falsity of this assumption: he has perceived that the 
world is an organism, that nature includes planets, moun- 
tains, vegetation and people alike, that what we are and 
what we see, what we hear, what we feel and what we 
smell, are inextricably related, that all are involved in the 
same great entity. Those who make fun of the Romantics 
are mistaken in supposing that there is no intimate con- 
nection between the landscape and the poet's emotions, 
There is no real dualism, says Whitehead, between ex- 
ternal lakes and hills, on the one hand, and personal feel* 
ings, on the other: human feelings and inanimate objects 
are interdependent and developing together in some fash- 
ion of which our traditional notions of laws of cause and 
effect, of dualities of mind and matter or of body and 
soul, can give us no true idea. The Romantic poet, then, 
with his turbid or opalescent language, his sympathies 
and passions which cause him to seem to merge with his 
surroundings, is the prophet of a new insight into nature: 
he is describing things as they really are; and a revolution 



in the imagery of poetry is in reality a revolution in meta- 

Whitehead drops the story at this point; but he has 
provided the key to what follows. In the middle of the 
nineteenth century, science made new advances, and mech- 
anistic ideas were brought back into fashion again. But 
they came this time from a different quarter not from 
physics and mathematics, but from biology. It was the 
effect of the theory of Evolution to reduce man from the 
heroic stature to which the Romantics had tried to exalt 
him, to the semblance of a helpless animal, again very 
small in the universe and at the mercy of the forces about 
him. Humanity was the accidental product of heredity 
and environment, and capable of being explained in terms 
of these. This doctrine in literature was called Natu- 
ralism, and it was put into practice by novclistsjikc Zola, 
who believed that composing a novel was like perform- 
ing a laboratory experiment: you had only to supply 
your characters with a specific environment and heredity 
and then watch their automatic reactions; and by his- 
torians and critics like Taine, who asserted that virtue and 
vice were as much the products of automatic processes as 
alkalis and acids, and who attempted to account for mas- 
terpieces by studying the geographical and climatic condi- 
tions of the countries in which they had been produced. 

Not, however, that the movement known as Naturalism 
arose directly from "The Origin of Species." There had 
already set in, about the middle of the century, quite in- 
dependent of the theory of Evolution, a reaction against 



the sentimentality and the looseness of Romanticism, and 
in the direction of the objectivity and the severity of 
Classicism again; and this reaction had already been char 
acterized by a kind of scientific observation which closely 
corresponded to that of biological science. This reaction 
is seen most clearly in France. The Parnassian group of 
poets, who made their first appearance in the fifties 
Gautier, Leconte de Lisle, Heredia seemed to have taken 
it for their aim merely to picture historical incidents and 
natural phenomena as objectively and accurately as possi- 
ble in impassiveperfect verse. Leconte de Lisle's elephants 
crossing the desert is a celebrated example: the elephants 
appear and disappear with a certain classical dignity and 
grandeur, and the poet leaves it at that. 

It is less easy, in English poetry, to give clear examples 
of the reaction toward Naturalism: the English did not, 
after the Romantic Movement, take much interest in lit- 
erary methods till toward the end of the nineteenth cen- 
tury. But the tendency toward what we call realism had 
set in, none the less: Browning, though he had, of course, 
nothing of the classical form of the Parnassians, was ad-* 
dieted to historical reconstruction of a kind more pedantic 
and less flamboyant than that of the true Romantics, and 
when he dealt with contemporary life, did so at least as 
realistically as any of the Victorian novelists themselves 
going in Zola's direction without quite being aware of the 
fact. And we can see very plainly in Tennyson, who was 
much preoccupied with the doctrines of Evolution, some- 
thing of the same exactitude of description combined with 



something of the same severity of verse though with less 
hardness and more grace that we find in the French 

"Nor wilt thou snare him in the white ravine, 
Nor find him dropt upon the firths of ice, 
That huddling slant in furrow-cloven fells 
To roll the torrent out of dusky doors: 
But follow; let the torrent dance thee down 
To find him in the valley; let the wild 
Lean-headed eagles yelp alone." 

And it is interesting to compare Tennyson, in this connec- 
tion, with Pope on the rare occasions (though not so rare 
as people sometimes suppose) when he is describing natu- 
ral objects: 

"The silver eel, in shining volumes roll'd, 
The yellow carp, in scales bedropp'd with gold." 

These lines have the technical perfection and the precise 
observation of Tennyson, but they are heavier and more 
metallic. Pope is often, as a matter of fact, very close to the 
French Parnassians. The latter represent, in reality, a sec- 
ond classical-scientific movement, the counterpart to that 
represented by Pope* 

But the highest developments of Naturalism took place, 
not in poetry, but in prose. The plays of Ibsen and the 
novels of Flaubert are the masterpieces of this second 
period of modern classicism, as Racine and Swift are of 
the first. The art of Flaubert and Ibsen is again, like the 
art of the seventeenth-century writers, scrupulously non- 



personal and objective, and it insists upon precision of lan- 
guage and economy of form. Compare the lucidity, the 
logic and the limited number of characters of such a 
tragedy of Ibsen's as "Rosmersholm" with the rigorous 
conventions of Racine; or compare "Gulliver's Travels" 
with "Bouvard et P&uchet" or "L'Education Sentimen- 
tale." Yet, though the earlier works resemble the later 
ones in many obvious ways, they differ from them in this: 
where a seventeenth-century moralist like La Rochefou- 
cauld would have sought to discover and set forth the 
universal principles of human behavior, a nineteenth-cen- 
tury writer like Ibsen or Flaubert has begun to study man 
in relation to his particular environment and time. The 
method of approach in both cases, however, may be de- 
scribed as "scientific," and it tends to lead us to mechanis- 
tic conclusions. 

Now Flaubert and Ibsen both had been suckled on Ro- 
manticism. Flaubert had begun by writing a Romantic 
"Saint-Antoine" before he chastened it and cut it down to 
the more sober one which he published; and Ibsen had 
written in verse his Faustian "Brand" and "Peer Gynt" 
before he arrived at his realistic plays in prose. Each, be- 
ginning in Romanticism, had evolved for himself a new 
discipline and developed a new point of view. For "Ma- 
dame Bovary" is not merely arranged and written differ- 
ently from a novel by Victor Hugo: it also constitutes an 
objective criticism of a case of Romantic personality; and 
Ibsen was occupied all his life with situations produced by 
the conflict of the essentially Romantic conception of one's 



duty to one's own personality with the conception of one's 
duty to society. 

But in the later prose plays of Ibsen, the trolls and 
ghosts of his early dramatic poems have begun to creep 
back into the bourgeois drawing-rooms: the Naturalist 
has been finally compelled to make cracks in his own 
mold. All that vaporous, confused and grandiose world 
of Romanticism had been resolutely ordered and com- 
pressed; but now the objective point of view of Natural- 
ism, the machine-like technique which went with it, begin 
to cramp the poet's imagination, to prove inadequate to 
convey what he feels. The reader begins to chafe at the 
strain, and the artist begins to betray it. Huysmans de- 
scribed Leconte de Lisle as "the sonorous hardware man": 
we remember Wordsworth's strictures on Pope. Literature 
is rebounding again from the scientific-classical pole to the 
poetic-romantic one. And this second reaction at the end 
of the century, this counterpart to the Romantic reaction 
of the end of the century before, was known in France as 

Now in attempting to write literary history, one must 
guard against giving the impression that these movements 
and counter-movements necessarily follow one another in 
a punctual and well-generalled fashion as if eighteenth- 
century reason had been cleanly put to rout by nineteenth- 
century Romanticism, which then proceeded to hold the 
field till it was laid by the heels by Naturalism, and as if 
Mallarm6 and Rimbaud had then blown up Naturalism 
with bombs. What really happens, of course, is that one 


set of methods and ideas is not completely superseded by 
another; but that, on the contrary, it thrives in its teeth so 
that, on the one hand, Flaubert's prose has learned to 
hear, see and feel with the delicate senses of Romanticism 
at the same time that Flaubert is disciplining and criti- 
cizing the Romantic temperament; and so that, on the 
other hand, certain members of a school, unaffected by 
new influences abroad, will continue to practise its meth- 
ods and to exploit its possibilities further and further, 
when nearly everybody else has abandoned it. 

I have here purposely been selecting writers who seemed 
to represent some tendency or school in its purest or most 
highly developed form. We must, however, now consider 
some Romantics who, in certain ways, carried Romanti- 
cism further than even Chateaubriand or Musset, or than 
Wordsworth or Byron, and who became the first pre- 
cursors of Symbolism and were afterwards placed among 
its saints. 

One of these was the French writer who called himself 
Gerard de Nerval. Gerard de Nerval suffered from spells 
of insanity; and, partly no doubt as a result of this, habitu- 
ally confused his own fancies and feelings with external 
reality. He believed, even in his lucid periods and no 
doubt Whitehead would approve his metaphysics that 
the world which we see about us is involved in some 
more intimate fashion than is ordinarily supposed with 
the things that go on in our minds, that even our dreams 
and hallucinations are somehow bound up with reality. 
And in one of his sonnets he outdoes Wordsworth, with 



his "Presences of Nature in the sky" and his "Souls of 
lonely places," by imagining shuttered eyes coming to life 
in the very walls and "a pure spirit under the bark of 

But a more important prophet of Symbolism was Edgar 
Allan Poe, It was in general true that, by the middle of the 
century, the Romantic writers in the United States Poe, 
Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman and even Emerson- 
were, for reasons which it would be interesting to deter- 
mine, developing in the direction of Symbolism; and one 
of the events of prime importance in the early history of 
the Symbolist Movement was the discovery of Poe by 
Baudelaire. When Baudelaire, a late Romantic, first read 
Poe in 1847, he "experienced a strange commotion." 
When he began to look up Poe's writings in the files of 
American magazines, he found among them stories and 
poems which he said that he himself had already "thought 
vaguely and confusedly" of writing, and his interest be- 
came a veritable passion. In 1852, Baudelaire published a 
volume of translations of Poe's tales; and from then on 
the influence of Poe played an important part in French 
literature. Poe's critical writings provided the first scrip- 
tures of the Symbolist Movement, for he had formulated 
what amounted to a new literary programme which cor- 
rected the Romantic looseness and lopped away the Ro- 
mantic extravagance, at the same time that it aimed, not 
at Naturalistic, but at ultra-Romantic effects. There was, 
of course, a good deal in common between Poe's poetry 
and such Romantic poetry as Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," 



as there was between his poems in prose and such Ro- 
mantic prose as that of De Quincey. But Poe, by insisting 
on and specially cultivating certain aspects of Romanti- 
cism, helped to transform it into something different. "I 
\now" we find Poe writing, for example, "that indefi- 
niteness is an element of the true music [of poetry] I 
mean of the true musical expression . . . a suggestive 
indefiniteness of vague and therefore of spiritual effect." 
And to approximate the indcfinitcness of music was to 
become one of the principajjiims of Symbolism. 

This effect of indefiniteness was produced not merely by 
the confusion I have mentioned between the imaginary 
world and the real; but also by means of a further con- 
fusion between the perceptions of the different senses. 

"Comme de longs chos qui de loin se confondent . . . 
Les parfums, les couleurs ct les sons se repondent," 

wrote Baudelaire. And we find Poe, in one of his poems, 
hearing the approach of the darkness, or writing such a 
description as the following of the sensations which fol- 
low death: "Night arrived; and with its shadows a heavy 
discomfort. It oppressed my limbs with the oppression of 
some dull weight, and was palpable. There was also a 
moaning sound, not unlike the distant reverberation of 
surf, but more continuous, which beginning with the first 
twilight, had grown in strength with the darkness. Sud- 
denly lights were brought into the room , . . and issuing 
from the flame of each lamp, there flowed unbrokenly 
into my ears a strain of melodious monotone." 



This notation of super-rational sensations was a novelty 
in the forties of the last century as was the dreamlike 
irrational musical poetry of "Annabel Lee" and "Ulal- 
ume"; and they helped to effect a revolution in France. 
For an English-speaking reader of to-day, Poe's influence 
may be hard to understand; and even when such a reader 
comes to examine the productions of French Symbolism, 
it may surprise him that they should have caused amaze- 
ment. The medley of images; the deliberately mixed 
metaphors; the combination of passion and wit of the 
grand and the prosaic manners; the bold amalgamation 
of material with spiritual all these may seem to him 
quite proper and familiar. He has always known them in 
the English poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies Shakespeare and the other Elizabethans did all 
these things without theorizing about them. Is this jiot the 
natural language of poetry? Is it not the norm against 
which, in English literature, the eighteenth century was 
a heresy and to which the Romantics did their best to 
return ? 

But we must remember that the development of French 
poetry has been quite different from that of English. 
Michelet says that in the sixteenth century the future of 
French literature had hung in the balance between Rabe- 
lais and Ronsard, and he regrets that it was Ronsaxd who 
triumphed. For Rabelais in France was a sort of equiva- 
lent to our own Elizabethans, whereas Ronsard, who rep- 
resented to Michelet all that was poorest, dryest and most 
conventional in the French genius, was one of the fathers 



of that classical tradition of lucidity, sobriety and purity 
which culminated in Molire and Racine. In comparison 
with the Classicism of the French, which has dominated 
their whole literature since the Renaissance, the English 
Classicism of the eighteenth century, the age of Dr. 
Johnson and Pope, was a brief ineffective deviation. And 
from the point of view of English readers, the most dar- 
ing innovations of the Romantic revolution in France, 
in spite of all the excitement which accompanied them, 
must appear of an astonishingly moderate character. But 
the age and the rigor of the tradition were the measure of 
the difficulty of breaking out of it. After all, Coleridge, 
Shelley and Keats in spite of Pope and Dr. Johnson 
had only to look back to Milton and Shakespeare, whose 
dense forests had all along been in view beyond the formal 
eighteenth-century gardens. But to an eighteenth-century 
Frenchman like Voltaire, Shakespeare was incomprehen- 
sible; and to the Frenchman of the classical tradition of 
the beginning of the nineteenth century, the rhetoric of 
Hugo was a scandal: the French were not used to such 
rich colors or to so free a vocabulary; moreover, the Ro- 
mantics broke metrical rules far stricter than any we have 
had in English. Yet Victor Hugo was still very far from 
the variety and freedom of Shakespeare. It is enlightening 
to compare Shelley's lyric which begins, "O World! O 
Life ! O Time I" with the poem of Alfred de Musset's which 
begins, "J' a * perdu ma force et ma vie." These two 
lyrics are in some ways curiously similar: each is the 
breath of a Romantic sigh over the passing of the pride 

T 5 


of youth. Yet the French poet, even in his wistfulness, 
makes epigrammatic points: his language is always logi- 
cal and precise; whereas the English poet is vague and 
gives us images unrelated by logic. And it will not be till 
the advent of the Symbolists that French poetry will 
really become capable of the fantasy and fluidity of Eng- 

The Symbolist Movement broke those rules of French 
metrics which the Romantics had left intact, and it finally 
succeeded in throwing overboard completely the clarity 
and logic of the French classical tradition, which the 
Romantics had still to a great extent respected. It was 
nourished from many alien sources German, Flemish, 
modern Greek and especially, precisely, from English. 
Verlaine had lived in England, and knew English well; 
Mallarme was a professor of English; and Baudelaire, as 
I have said, had provided the movement with its first 
programmes by translating the essays of Poe. Two of the 
Symbolist poets, Stuart Merrill and Francis Viel-Griffin, 
were Americans who lived in Paris and wrote French; 
and an American, reading to-day the latter's "Chevauchee 
d'Yeldis," for example, may wonder how, when Symbol- 
ism was new, such a poem could ever have been regarded 
as one of the movement's acknowledged masterpieces: to 
us, it seems merely agreeable, not in the least revolutionary 
or novel, but like something which might not impossibly 
have been written by Thomas Bailey Aldrich if he had 
been influenced by Browning. We are surprised to learn 
that Viel6-Griffin is still considered an important poet. 


But the point was that he had performed a feat which 
astonished and impressed the French and of which it is 
probable that no Frenchman was capable: he had suc- 
ceeded in wrecking once for all the classical Alexandrine, 
hitherto the basis of French poetry or rather, as an Eng- 
lish reader at once recognizes, he had dispensed with it 
altogether and begun writing English metres in French. 
The French called this "vers libre" but it is "free" only in 
the sense of being irregular, like many poems of Matthew 
Arnold and Browning. 

What made Poe particularly acceptable to the French, 
however, was what had distinguished him from most of 
the other Romantics of the English-speaking countries: 
his interest in aesthetic theory. The French have always 
reasoned about literature far more than the English have; 
they always want to know what they are doing and why 
they are doing it: their literary criticism has acted as a 
constant interpreter and guide to the rest of their litera- 
ture. And it was in France that Poe's literary theory, to 
which no one seems to have paid much attention else- 
where, was first studied and elucidated. So that, though 
the effects and devices of Symbolism were of a kind that 
was familiar in English, and though the Symbolists were 
sometimes indebted to English literature directly the 
Symbolist Movement itself, by reason of its origin in 
France, had a deliberate self-conscious aesthetic which 
made it different from anything in English. One must go 
back to Coleridge to find in English a figure comparable 
to the Symbolist leader, Stphane Mallarm. Paul Val&y 


says of Mallarm that, as he was the greatest French poet 
of his time, he could also have been one of the most popu- 
lar. But Mallarme was an unpopular poet: he taught Eng- 
lish for a living, and wrote little and published less. Yet, 
ridiculed and denounced by the public, who reiterated that 
his poetry was nonsense and yet were irritated by his seri- 
ousness and obstinacy, he exercised, from his little Paris 
apartment, where he held Tuesday receptions, an influ- 
ence curiously far-reaching over the young writers Eng- 
lish and French alike of the end of the century. There 
in the sitting-room which was also the dining-room on the 
fourth floor in the Rue de Rome, where the whistle of 
locomotives came in through the windows to mingle with 
the literary conversation, Mallarme, with his shining pen- 
sive gaze from under his long lashes and always smoking 
a cigarette "to put some smoke," as he used to say, "be- 
tween the world and himself," would talk about the 
theory of poetry in a "mild, musical and unforgettable 
voice." There was an atmosphere "calm and almost reli- 
gious." Mallarme had "the pride of the inner life," said one 
of his friends; his nature was "patient, disdainful and 
imperiously gentle." He always reflected before he spoke 
and always put what he said in the form of a question. His 
wife sat beside him embroidering; his daughter answered 
the door. Here came Huysmans, Whistler, Degas, Moras, 
Laforgue, Viele-Griffin, Paul Valery, Henri de Regnier, 
Pierre Louys, Paul Claudel, Remy de Gourmont, Andre 
Gide, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Symons, George Moore and 
W. B. Yeats. For Mallarme was a true saint of literature: 



he had proposed to himself an almost impossible object, 
and he pursued it without compromise or distraction. His 
whole life was dedicated to the effort to do something 
with the language of poetry which had never been done 
before. "Donner un sens plus pur," he had written in a 
sonnet on Poe, "aux mots de la tribu." He was, as Albert 
Thibaudet has said, engaged in "a disinterested experi- 
ment on the confines of poetry, at a limit where other 
lungs would find the air unbreathable." 

What, then, was this purer sense which Mallarme be- 
lieved he was following Poe in wishing to give to the 
words of the tribe ? What, precisely, was the nature of this 
experiment on the confines of poetry which Mallarme 
found so absorbing and which so many other writers tried 
to repeat ? What, precisely, did the Symbolists propose ? I 
have called attention,, in speaking of Poe, to the confusion 
between the perceptions of the different senses, and to the 
attempt to make the effects of poetry approximate to those 
of music. And I should add, in this latter connection, that 
the influence on Symbolist poetry of Wagner was as im- 
portant as that of any poet: at the time when Romantic 
music had come closest to literature, literature was at- 
tracted toward music. I have also spoken, in connection 
with Gerard de Nerval, of the confusion between the 
imaginary and the real, between our sensations and fan- 
cies, on the one hand, and what we actually do and see, 
on the other. It was the tendency of Symbolism that 
second swing of the pendulum away from a mechanistic 
view of nature and from a social conception of man to 


make poetry even more a matter of the sensations and 
emotions of the individual than had been the case with 
Romanticism: Symbolism, indeed, sometimes had the re- 
sult of making poetry so much a private concern of the 
poet's that it turned out to be incommunicable to the 
reader. The peculiar subtlety and difficulty of Symbolism 
is indicated by the name itself. This name has often been 
complained of as being inadequate for the movement to 
which it was given and inappropriate to certain of its 
aspects; and it may prove misleading to English readers, 
For the symbols of Symbolism have to be defined a little 
differently from symbols in the ordinary sense the sense 
in which the Cross is the symbol of Christianity or the 
Stars and Stripes the symbol of the United States. This 
symbolism differs even from such symbolism as Dante's. 
For the familiar kind of symbolism is conventional and 
fixed; the symbolism of the Divine Comedy is conven- 
tional, logical and definite. But the symbols of the Sym- 
bolist school are usually chosen arbitrarily by the poet to 
stand for special ideas of his own they are a sort of 
disguise for these ideas. "The Parnassians, for their part," 
wrote Mallarm6, "take the thing just as it is and put it 
before us and consequently they arc deficient in mystery: 
they deprive the mind of the delicious joy of believing that 
it is creating. To name an object is to do away with the 
three-quarters of the enjoyment of the poem which is de- 
rived from the satisfaction of guessing little by little: to 
suggest it, to evoke it that is what charms the imagina- 



To intimate things rather than state them plainly was 
thus one of the primary aims of the Symbolists. But there 
was more involved in their point of view than Mallarm6 
here explains. The assumptions which underlay Symbol- 
ism lead us to formulate some such doctrine as the follow- 
ing: Every feeling or sensation we have, every moment of 
consciousness, is different from every other; and it is, in 
consequence,, impossible to render our sensations as we ac- 
tually experience them through the conventional and uni- 
versal language of ordinary literature. Each poet has his 
unique personality; each of his moments has its special 
tone, its special combination of elements. And it is the 
poet's task to find, to invent, the special language which 
will alone be capable of expressing his personality and 
feelings. Such a language must make use of symbols: what 
is so special, so fleeting and so vague cannot be conveyed 
by direct statement or description, but only by a succes- 
sion of words, of images, which will serve to suggest it to 
the reader. The Symbolists themselves, full of the idea of 
producing with poetry effects like those of music, tended 
to think of these images as possessing an abstract value 
like musical notes and chords. But the words of our speech 
are not musical notation, and what the symbols of Sym- 
bolism really were, were metaphors detached from their 
subjects for one cannot, beyond a certain point, in poet- 
ry, merely enjoy color and sound for their own sake: one 
has to guess what the images are being applied to. And 
Symbolism may be defined as an attempt by carefully 
studied means a complicated association of ideas repre- 



scntcd by a medley of metaphors to communicate unique 
personal feelings. N 

The Symbolist Movement proper was first largely con- 
fined to France and principally limited to poetry of rather 
an esoteric kind; but it was destined, as time went on, to 
spread to the whole western world and its principles to be 
applied on a scale which the most enthusiastic of its found- 
ers could scarcely have foreseen. Remy de Gourmont, who 
was eventually to become the most distinguished critical 
champion of the movement, tells of his excitement, one 
afternoon in the eighties, at discovering the new poetry in 
a little magazine which he had picked up at a book-stall in 
the Odeon: "As I looked through it, I experienced the 
little aesthetic thrill and that exquisite impression of nov- 
elty which has so much charm for youth. I seem to myself 
to have been dreaming rather than reading. The Luxem- 
bourg was pink with early April: I crossed it toward the 
Rue d'Assas, thinking a great deal more about the new 
literature which was coinciding for me that day with the 
renewal of the world than about the business which had 
brought me to that part of Paris. All that I had written up 
to that time inspired me with profound disgust. ... In 
less than an hour my literary orientation was radically 
modified." And Yeats wrote in 1897: "The reaction 
against the rationalism of the eighteenth century has min- 
gled with a reaction against the materialism of the nine- 
teenth century, and the symbolical movement, which has 
come to perfection in Germany in Wagner, in England in 
the Pre-Raphaelites, and in France in Villiers de L'lsle- 



Adam and Mallarme and Maeterlinck, and has stirred the 
imagination of Ibsen and D'Annunzio, is certainly the 
only movement that is saying new things." 

We do not talk about Symbolism to-day in dealing with 
English literature; we do not even, as Yeats did at the 
end of the last century, think of the writers whom he 
mentions as all belonging to a "symbolical movement"; 
yet the influence of Mallarme and his fellow poets was felt 
widely and deeply outside of France, and it is difficult to 
understand certain of the things which have been happen- 
ing lately in English literature without some knowledge 
of the Symbolist school. I believe, in fact, that if English 
and American criticism have sometimes shown them- 
selves at a loss when confronted with the work of certain 
recent writers, it is partly because the work of these writers 
is the result of a literary revolution which occurred out- 
side English literature. The case of the Romantic Move- 
ment was different: Wordsworth's prefaces were English 
manifestoes; Lockhart's attack on Keats and Byron's at- 
tack on Jeffrey were blows struck in an English civil war. 
But in spite of the Pre-Raphaelites, who were launched by 
an impulse somewhat similar to that of the Symbolists, 
and in spite of the English "aesthetics" and "decadents," 
who for the most part imitated the French without very 
much originality, the battle of Symbolism has never prop- 
erly been fought out in English. So that whereas French 
writers like Valery and Proust who have grown out of the 
Symbolist Movement, are well understood and appreci- 
ated by French literary criticism, the critics of the English- 



speaking countries have often seemed not to know how to 
deal with writers such as Eliot and Joyce. Even when these 
writers have brought back into English qualities which are 
natural to it and resources which it originally possessed, 
these elements have returned by way of France and have 
taken on the complexion of the French mind critical, 
philosophical, much occupied with aesthetic theory and 
tending always to aim self-consciously at particular effects 
and to study scrupulously appropriate means. 

It has perhaps been peculiarly easy for certain of the 
leaders of contemporary English literature that is, of the 
literature .since the War to profit by the example of Paris, 
because they have themselves not been English. Of the 
writers in English I shall discuss in this book, Yeats is an 
Irishman who turns almost as easily toward Paris as to- 
ward London; Joyce an Irishman who has done most of 
his work on the Continent and who has scarcely lived in 
England at all; and T. S. Eliot and Gertrude Stein are 
Americans living abroad. The work of these writers has 
been largely a continuance or extension of Symbolism. 
Yeats, the ablest of the fin dc sitclc group who tried in 
London to emulate the French, managed to make Sym- 
bolism flourish triumphantly by transplanting it to the 
more favorable soil of Ireland. T. S. Eliot in his earliest 
poems seems to have been as susceptible to the influence of 
the Symbolists as to that of the English Elizabethans. 
Joyce, a master of Naturalism as great as Flaubert, has at 
the same time succeeded in dramatizing Symbolism by 
making use of its methods for differentiating between his 



various characters and their varying states of mind. And 
Gertrude Stein has carried Mallarme's principles so far in 
the direction of that limit where other lungs find the air 
unbreathable as perhaps finally to reduce them to absurd- 
ity. It is true, however, that under proper conditions, these 
principles remain valid; and both the strength and the 
weaknesses characteristic of much of the literature since 
the War derive naturally from the Symbolist poets and 
may already be studied in their work. The literary history 
of our time is to a great extent that of the development of 
Symbolism and of its fusion or conflict with Naturalism 



"pORN in Dublin in 1865, William Butler Yeats was the 
-L* son of an Irish Pre-Raphaelite painter, who had given 
him, at "fifteen or sixteen," Rossetti and Blake to read. 
Yeats's earliest verse was Pre-Raphaelite and Romantic: his 
long poem, "The Wanderings of Oisin" (1889)., on a sub- 
ject from Irish mythology, stains a kind of Shelleyan flu- 
idity with a Keatsian richness of color. But, durihglfic 
nineties, Yeats met Mallarme in Paris, and though he 
knew at that time little French, was instructed in the doc- 
trines of Symbolism by his friend Arthur Symons. "I 
think," he says, "that Symons's translations from Mal- 
larme may have given elaborate form to my verses of those 
years, to the latter poems of 'The Wind among the Reeds,' 
to 'The Shadowy Waters/ " And we have seen that he 
wrote of Symbolism as "the only movement that is saying 
new things." 

If we do not ordinarily think of Yeats as primarily a 
Symbolist poet, it is because, in taking Symbolism to Ire- 
land, he fed it with new resources and gave it a special ac- 
cent which lead us to think of his poetry from the point of 
view of its national qualities rather than from the point of 
view of its relation to the rest of European literature. 

It is easy, however, to see how close Yeats is, even in his 
later years, to the French poetry of the end of the century, 



in such a comparatively recent poem as "On a Picture of 
a Black Centaur": 

"Your hooves have stamped at the black margin of the wood, 
Even where horrible green parrots call and swing. 
My works are all stamped down into the sultry mud. 
I knew that horse play, knew it for a murderous thing. 
What wholesome sun has ripened is wholesome food to eat 
And that alone; yet I, being driven half insane 
Because of some green wing, gathered old mummy wheat 
In the mad abstract dark and ground it grain by grain 
And after baked it slowly in an oven; but now 
I bring full flavoured wine out of a barrel found 
Where seven Ephesian topers slept and never knew 
When Alexander's empire past, they slept so sound. 
Stretch out your limbs and sleep a long Saturnian sleep; 
I have loved you better than my soul for all my words, 
And there is none so fit to keep a watch and keep 
Unwearied eyes upon those horrible green birds." 

Compare this with a characteristic sonnet of Mallarme's; 

"Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd'hui 
Va-t-il nous d&hirer avec un coup d'aile ivre 
Ce lac dur oubli6 que hante sous le givre 
Le transparent glacier des vols qui n'ont pas fui? 

Un cygne d'autrefois sc souvient que c'est lui 
Magnifique mais qui sans espoir se d&ivre 
Pour n 'avoir pas chantc la region ou vivre 
Quand du sterile hiver a resplendi Tennui. 

Tout son col secouera ccttc blanche agonic 

Par Pespace inflig^e & 1'oiseau qui le nie, 

Mais non 1'horrcur du sol ou le plumage est pris. 

Fantomc qu'a ce lieu son pur clat assignc, 
II s'immobilise au songc froid de mlpris 
Que vfit parmi Tcxil inutile le Cygnc." 



The centaur, the parrots, the wheat and the wine are, like 
the swan, the lake and the frost, not real things (except 
that the centaur is something Yeats has seen in a picture), 
but merely accidental images which, by an association of 
ideas, have come to stand for the poet's emotion. But 
where the French poets were obliged to depend almost ex- 
clusively upon such symbols, which tended to become 
more bewildering as they became more heterogeneous, 
Yeats found in Irish mythology, unfamiliar even to Irish 
reader^ and in itself rather cloudy and vague, a treasury 
of symbols ready to his hand. He had thus perhaps a spe- 
cial advantage. The Danaan children, the Shadowy Horses 
and Fergus with his brazen cars those mysterious and 
magical beings who play so large a part in Yeats's verse 
have little more objective reality than the images of Mal- 
larm: they are the elements and the moods of Yeats's 
complex sensibility. But they have a more satisfactory 
character than such a French Symbolist mythology as 
Mallarm^'s though Mallarm does occasionally draw on 
the Old Testament or the classics for a Salome or a faun 
because they constitute a world of which one can to some 
extent get the hang, where one can at least partly find 
one's way about. 

And, as we follow the progress of Yeats's poetry, this 
world becomes less dim and iridescent. In "The Wind 
among the Reeds," which appeared in 1899, we still find 
"the flaming lute-thronged angelic door" and "the heav- 
en's embroidered cloths enwrought with golden and sil- 
ver light" of the earlier Pre-Raphaelite Yeats. But some- 



time about the beginning of the century, the poet became 
dissatisfied, he tells us, and set out rigorously to eliminate 
from his poetry both Romantic rhetoric and Symbolistic 

The development of Yeats's later style seems to coincide 
with a disillusionment. The younger Yeats has lived much 
in fairyland: the heroes of his short stories and poems 
Oisin, Red Hanrahan, the Man Who Dreamed of Fairy- 
land are always deserting the real world for the world 
of the Sidhe, the fairies. The real world is a sad unsatis- 
factory place: in one of the very first of Yeats's poems, the 
fairies warn the child they are stealing away 

"Come away, O human child! 
To the waters and the wild 
With a faery, hand in hand, 
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand." 

And the mortals who escape to fairyland find eternal love- 
making and laughter: they dance on twilit lawns to 
strange music. The Irish fairies of Yeats are not, like the 
fairies of the ordinary fairy-story, merely smaller human 
beings like ourselves, possessed of special supernatural 
powers: they are a different order of beings altogether, 
existing, as it were, in different dimensions. This strange- 
ness> this real other-worldliness of the fairyland of Yeats's 
poetry, derives partly, no doubt, it would appear from the 
fascinating anthology of Irish fairy-tales which Yeats com- 
piled and edited, from Irish folk-lore itself. The Sidhe 
were the natural creation of the dreaming and mocking 



Irish mind amid the illusory uncertain lights and mists of 
the Irish countryside. But Yeats has made of this Irish 
fairyland something which puts upon us a stronger spell 
than the spell even of the folk-tales in his anthology. 
Yeats's fairyland has become a symbol for the imagination 
itself. The world of the imagination is shown us in Yeats's 
early poetry as something infinitely delightful, infinitely 
seductive, as something to which one becomes addicted, 
with which one becomes delirious and drunken and as 
something which is somehow incompatible with, and Jfatal 
to, the good life of that actual world which is so full of 

f , M"W^T* v J vu c ^ 4f ,+ 

weeping and from which it is so sweet to withdraw. 
There is nothing sinister about the Sidhe in themselves: 

they are non-moral and relieved of mortal cares; for 

i ****" - **' *""* 

them, there is not even time; and from our human point 
of view, their fairy point of view is unseizable. But to the 
mortal who has lived among the fairies, who has lost the 
sense of human laws in their world, the consequences may 
be terrible for he has preferred something else to reality 
he has escaped the responsibilities of human life and he 
must fail of its satisfactions. The Man Who Dreamed of 
Fairyland, in one of the most beautiful of Yeats's early 
poems, had 

". . . stood among a crowd at Drumahair; 
His heart hung all upon a silken dress, 
And he had known at last some tenderness. 
Before Earth made of him her sleepy care; 
But when a man poured fish into a pile, 
It seemed they raised their little silver heads, 
And sang how day a Druid twilurht shed* 



Upon a dim, green, well-beloved isle, 
Where people love beside star-laden seas; 
How Time may never mar their faery vows 
Under the woven roofs of quicken boughs: 
The singing shook him out of his new ease. 

He wandered by the sands of Lisadill; 
His mind ran all on money cares and fears, 
And he had known at last some prudent years 
Before they heaped his grave under the hill; 
But while he passed before a plashy place, 
A lug-worm with its gray and muddy mouth 
Sang how somewhere to north or west or south, 
There dwelt a gay, exulting, gentle race; 
And how beneath those three times blessed skies 
A Danaan fruitage makes a shower of moons, 
And as it falls awakens leafy tunes: 
And at that singing he was no more wise/' 

And so with all our human needs and passions the man 
who dreamed of fairyland is always being distracted from 
them by intimations of a world outside our world; and 
even when he is dead, he can find "no comfort in the 
grave." So in another poem, the joys of the "Happy 
Townland" where "boughs have their fruit and blossom 
at all times of the year," where "rivers are running over 
with red beer and brown beer" and where "queens, their 
eyes blue like the ice, are dancing in a crowd," are ir- 
reconcilable with real life: the enchanted Happy Town- 
land is also "the world's bane." 

In the prose stories of Yeats's early period, this fairyland 
appears under its real aspect as the life of revery and im- 
agination and of solitude. The narrator of "Rosa Al- 


chemica" exiles himself from the world in a house 
where tapestries, "full of the blue and bronze of pea- 
cocks . . . shut out all history and activity untouched 
with beauty and peace," and where he is able to find in 
"antique bronze gods and goddesses ... all a pagan's 
delight in various beauty . . . without his terror at sleep- 
less destiny and his labor with many sacrifices." Another 
solitary, Michael Robartes, lives on the lonely Irish coast 
in a house which he calls "the Temple of the Alchemical 
Rose" and where by night the immortal spirits of beauti- 
ful long-dead men and women from Egypt and from 
Greece come to dance in a mosaic-lined room, with a great 
rose in mosaic on the ceiling. It was characteristic of the 
fin dc s&cle writers to want to stand apart from the com- 
mon life and live only in the imagination. I have said that 
the battle of Symbolism was never properly fought out in 
English; but there was one writer in England who played 
a role somewhat similar to that of Mallarme in France. 
Walter Pater was, like Mallarme, a man of much intel- 
lectual originality who, living quietly and writing little, 
had a profound influence on the literature of his time. 
More nearly than anyone else, he supplied, in his literary 
criticism, an English equivalent to the Symbolist theory 
of the French. When Pater says that experience gives us, 
"not the truth of eternal outlines, ascertained once for all, 
but a world of fine gradations and subtly linked condi- 
tions, shifting intricately as we ourselves change," he is 
stating a point of view exactly similar to that of the Sym- 
bolists. But it was less in the field of aesthetic theory than 


in that of the appreciation of life that Pater developed 
this point of view. The famous conclusion to "The Re- 
naissance" fixed the ideal of a whole generation: "To re- 
gard all things and principles of things as inconstant 
modes or fashions has more and more become the fash- 
ion of modern thought. . . . The service of philosophy, 
of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to 
rouse., to startle it to a life of constant and eager observa- 
tion. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or 
face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than 
the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual 
excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us for that 
moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience 
itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is 
given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we 
see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest 
senses?" "We looked consciously to Pater for our philoso- 
phy," Yeats wrote of himself and his friends; and the 
tapestried house, the Alchemical Temple, had been in- 
vented as ideal abodes where this philosophy might be put 
into practice as Yeats's fairyland itself had been but 
one of the imaginary domains of the fin dc sitclc mind. 

But just as Yeats's early poetry presents the fascination 
of fairyland as something inimical to life in the real 
world, so these stories of the life of ecstatic revery, unlike 
the typical writings of the fin dc sticle aesthetes, are edged 
with a consciousness of dangers and temptations ines- 
capably involved in such a life. In Yeats, we find the 
xstheticism of Pater carried through to its consequences. 



What is the consequence of living for beauty, as beauty 
was then understood, of cultivating the imagination, the 
enjoyment of aesthetic sensation^, as a supreme end in it- 
self? We shall be thrown fatally out of key with reality 
we shall incur penalties which are not to be taken lightly. 
There is a conflict here which cannot be evaded; and 
Yeats, even in his earliest period, is unceasingly aware of 
this conflict. But still he prefers to dwell most of the time 
in fairyland or among the dancers of the Alchemical 
Temple. He would even transport his human love, his hu- 
man desire, into the climate of that immortal world, 
where nothing that is ugly can jar and where nothing that 
is beautiful fades: 

"All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old, 
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart, 
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould, 
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my 


The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told; 
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart, 
With the earth and the sky and the water, remade, like a casket 

of gold 
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of 

my heart." 

But now, in the period inaugurated by "The Green 
Helmet" (published in 1912), the balance is to dip on the 
other side. In the frustration of early love, apparently, he 
has paid the price of escaping to fairyland, and the memo- 
ry of it is bitter: he still champions, he still puts above 
everything, the nobility and splendor of the imagination; 



but he must face life's hard conditions. And the conscious- 
ness of inexorable limits has brought his art to a sharper 
focus the unbinding of "youth's dreamy load" has made 
him a better poet. No longer content with the ice-eyed 
queens of fairyland at the same time that he no longer 
hopes - c rom real life any satisfaction other than the tri- 
umph of imagination through art, he applies to poetry 
all the vigor of his intellect and all the energy of his 
passion. He would reduce his verse to something definite 
and hard at the same time more severe and more pas- 
sionate. Now the soap-bubble colors vanish; the music of 
fairyland dies away; we behold only, earthly and clear, 
the bare outlines of "cold Clare rock and Galway rock and 

In a poem which is at once a description of this style 
and an admirable example of it, he tells how, 

"Maybe a twelvemonth since 
Suddenly I began 
In scorn of this audience 
Imagining a man, 
And his sun-freckled face, 
And gray Connemara cloth, 
Climbing up to a place 
Where stone is dark under froth, 
And the down turn of his wrist 
When the flies drop in the stream: 
A man who does not exist, 
A man who is but a dream; 
And cried, 'Before I am old 
I shall have written him one 
Poem maybe as cold 
And passionate as the dawn.* v 



Yeats inhabits, in this phase, a world of pure intense emo- 
tions expressed in distinct fine images. His words, no mat- 
ter how prosaic, are always somehow luminous and noble, 
as if pale pebbles smoothed by the sea were to take on 
some mysterious value and become more precious than 
jewels or gold. He is less prodigal now of symbols and 
names, and his visions have a new austerity: 

"I call to the eye of the mind 
A well long choked up and dry 
And boughs long stripped by the wind, 
And I call to the mind's eye 
Pallor of an ivory face, 
Its lofty dissolute air, 
A man climbing up to a place 
The salt sea wind has swept bare." 

When he returns to the heroic world of Irish mythology, 
he describes it with a new homeliness of detail. And more 
and more steadily he fixes his attention upon the actual 
world about him. He has come to desire above everything, 
as he says in another part of the poem about the fisher 

^ ; "To write for my own race 

\ I And for the reality/' 

And again, in another poem: 

"Through all the lying days of my youth 
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun; 
I! Now I may wither into the truth." 

He finds his subjects now in the events of his own life, 


no longer transposed into romantic convention, and in the 
public affairs of Ireland. And he succeeds in dignifying 
such subjects;, as perhaps no other contemporary poet has 
done, at the same time that he never ceases to deal with 
them without sentimentality and in the plainest language. 
He can even challenge comparison with Dante whom he 
now describes as "the chief imagination of Christendom 
by his ability to sustain a grand manner through sheer 
intensity without rhetorical heightening. He assumes, in- 
deed, a kind of Dantesque mask. How he suggests the 
compactness and point of Dante's two- or three-line allu- 
sions in such a passage as, 

"Traders or soldiers who have left me blood 
That has not passed through any huxter's loin, 
Pardon, and you that did not weigh the cost, 
Olr Butlers when you took to horse and stood 
B' ide the brackish waters of the Boyne 
1 ill your bad master blenched and all was lost . . 

and Dante's epigrammatic bitterness in, 

"Why should I blame her that she filled my days 
With misery, or that she would of late 
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways, 
Or hurled the little streets against the great, 
Had they but courage equal to desire?" 

And he has also a Dantesque exaltation an exaltation no 
longer the opium dream of fairyland, but such as life has 
to offer within its limits: the admiration for ancestor or 



friend, the pride in honor kept or work well done, the 
wild memory of early love: 

"And what of her that took 
All till my youth was gone 
With scarce a pitying look? 
How should I praise that one? 
When day begins to break 
I count my good and bad, 
Being wakeful for her sake, 
Remembering what she had, 
What eagle look still shows, 
While up from my heart's root 
So great a sweetness flows 
I shake from head to foot." 


With the development of this maturer s^yle, it became 
impossible any longer to regard Yeats merel) as one of the 
best of the English lyric poets of the nineties. The author 
of "The Lake of Innisfree," which had so delighted Rob- 
ert Louis Stevenson, had grown, in an interval of ten 
years during which nobody outside of Ireland had ap- 
parently paid much attention to him, to the unmistakable 
stature of a master. No other poet writing English in our 
time has been able to deal with supreme artistic success 
with such interesting and such varied experience. No other 
writer has been able to sustain the traditional grand man- 
ner of the poet with so little effect of self-consciousness, , 

And in spite of the immense amount of poetry pub- 
lished and read to-day, the personality truly and naturally 



poetic seems to be becoming rarer and rarer. It may be 
true that the kind of dignity and distinction which have 
been characteristic of the poet in the past are becoming 
more and more impossible in our modern democratic so- 
ciety and during a period when the ascendancy of scien- 
tific ideas has made man conscious of his kinship with 
the other animals and of his subjection to biological and 
physical laws rather than of his relation to the gods. It 
was easy for the lyric poet, from Wyatt's age to Waller's, 
to express himself both directly and elegantly, because 
he was a courtier, or, in any case, a member of a com- 
paratively small educated class, whose speech combined 
the candor and naturalness of conversation among equals 
with the grace of a courtly society. It was possible for 
him honestly to take up a residence in an intellectual 
world where poetic images stood for actualities because the 
scientific language and technique for dealing with these 
actualities had not yet come to permeate thought. But the 
modern poet who would follow this tradition, and who 
would yet deal with life in any large way, must create 
for himself a special personality, must maintain a state of 
mind, which shall shut out or remain indifferent to many 
aspects of the contemporary world. This necessity ac- 
counts partly, I suppose, for Yeats's preoccupation in his 
prose writings with what he calls the Mask or Anti-Self, 
a sort of imaginary personality, quite antagonistic to other 
elements of one's nature, which the poet must impose 
upon himself. It is hard to imagine a seventeenth-century 
poet being driven to such a theory a theory which makes 



one's poetic self figure as one of the halves of a split per- 
sonality; and it seems true that Yeats himself has not 
been able to keep up his poetic role without a certain ef- 
rort. We find, at any rate, in his criticism and his auto- 
biographical writings a remarkably honest and illumi- 
nating account of the difficulties of remaining a poet dur- 
ing the age in which we live. 

Yeats seems to be conscious from the first of an an- 
tagonism between the actual world of industry, politics 
and science, on the one hand, and the imaginative poetic 
life, on the other. He tells us, in his autobiography, that 
a vital issue seemed to be raised for him, in his boyhood, 
by the then popular and novel realism of Bastien-Lepage 
and Carolus Durand as against the mysticism of the Pre- 
Raphaelite painters. Bastien-Lepage's "clownish peasant 
staring with vacant eyes at her great boots" represented 
already to the young Yeats that Naturalistic, scientific 
vision which contradicted and warred with his own. And 
he takes up from the beginning, in his criticism,, a defi- 
nite and explicit position in regard to Naturalism: he will 
stand apart from the democratic, the scientific, modern 
world his poetic life shall be independent of it; his art 
shall owe nothing to its methods. His principles in liter- 
ature are those of the Symbolists, but he formulates them 
more clearly and defends them with more vigor than any- 
one else has yet done in English. 

"There is," he asserts in his early essay on the symbol- 
ism of Shelley, "for every man some one scene, some one 
adventure, some one picture, that is the image of his secret 



life, for wisdom first speaks in images and . * . this one 
image, if he would but brood over it his whole life long, 
would lead his soul, disentangled from unmeaning cir- 
cumstance and the ebb and flow of the world, into that 
far household, where the undying gods await all whose 
souls have become simple as flame, whose bodies have 
become quiet as an agate lamp." All great literature, says 
Yeats, is created out of symbols: observations and statis- 
tics mean nothing; works of art which depend upon them 
can have no enduring value. "There is something," he 
says, "of an old wives' tale in fine literature. The makers 
of it arc like an old peasant telling stories of the great 
famine or the hangings of '98 or from his own memories. 
He has felt something in the depth of his mind and he 
wants to make it as visible and powerful to our senses as 
possible. He will use the most extravagant words or 
illustrations if they will suit his purpose. Or he will invent 
a wild parable, and the more his mind is on fire or the 
more creative it is, the less will he look at the outer world 
or value it for its own sake. It gives him metaphors and 
examples, and that is all. He is even a little scornful of it, 
for it seems to him while the fit is on that the fire has 
gone out of it and left it but white ashes. I cannot explain 
it, but I am certain that every high thing was invented 
in this way, between sleeping and waking, as it were, and 
that peering and peeping persons are but hawkers of 
stolen goods. How else could their noses have grown so 
ravenous or their eyes so sharp?" 
And in all his activity as playwright and journalist in 

4 r 


connection with the Abbey Theatre, Yeats is leading a 
reaction against Naturalism. This reaction, which, by way 
of Germany and under the name of Expressionism, has 
attracted so much more attention since the War, had not, 
at the time of the founding of the Abbey Theatre, mani- 
fested itself very vigorously on the Continent. Symbolism 
did not play yet in the theatre the role that it was play- 
ing in poetry. Yet its seeds had already sprouted here and 
there. August Strindberg, returning from Paris to Sweden, 
wrote between 1899 and 1902 the Symbolistic "To Damas- 
cus" and "Dream Play," the prototypes of the German Ex- 
pressionistic drama; and Maeterlinck, with vague, pale 
and suave images, quite different from Strindberg's lively, 
queer and dissonant ones, had created quite a little theatre 
of Symbolism. Now Yeats, in his own dramatic works, has 
produced a theatre somewhat similar to Maeterlinck's. 
The productions of a greater poet, equipped with a richer 
and more solid mythology, these plays do, however, take 
place in the same sort of twilit world as Maeterlinck's 
a world in which the characters are less often dramatic 
personalities than disembodied broodings and longings. 
Yeats's plays have little dramatic importance because 
Yeats himself has little sense of drama, and we think of 
them primarily as a department of his poetry, with the 
same sort of interest and beauty as the rest. But Yeats, the 
director and propagandist of the Abbey Theatre, does have 
considerable importance in the history of the modern 
stage. The Abbey Theatre itself, of recent years, with the 
Gorky-Chekhovesque plays of Sean O'Casey, has taken a 



Naturalistic turn which Yeats never contemplated or de- 
sired; but his long and uncompromising campaign for a 
revival of poetic drama contributed much to contempo- 
rary efforts to break up the rigid technique and clear the 
stage of the realistic encumbrances of the Naturalistic 
drama. Yeats's greatest contribution to the theatre has 
been, not his own plays, but those of Synge, whom in 
1896 he discovered stagnating in Paris and induced to re- 
turn to Ireland. Synge succeeded, on a small scale, during 
the few years before he died, in creating for the Abbey 
Theatre perhaps the most authentic example of poetic 
drama which the modern stage has seen. 

Yeats at this period, the period of the founding and the 
first battles of the Abbey Theatre, is both active and effec- 
tive. There has always been more of the public figure and 
more of the pugnacious Irishman about him than his 
philosophy invites us to believe. But this philosophy never 
ceases to insist upon the irreconcilable opposition between 
the life of self-assertion in the practical world and the life 
consecrated to the recovery and contemplation of the 
precious symbol, which, "if he [the poet] would but brood 
over it his whole life long, would lead his soul, disentan- 
gled from unmeaning circumstance and the ebb and flow 
of the world," into the presence of the gods. Yeats recurs 
again and again to the necessity of mortifying the will: 
"Every visionary knows that the mind's eye soon comes to 
see a capricious and variable world, which the will cannot 
shape or change, though it can call it up and banish it 
again"; "We must find some place upon the Tree of Life 



for the Phoenix nest, for the passion that is exaltation and 
the negation of the will"; the style of the dialogue in 
Synge's plays "blurs definition, clear edges, everything 
that comes from the will, it turns imagination from all 
that is of the present, like a gold background in a religious 
picture, and it strengthens in every emotion whatever 
comes to it from far off, from brooding memory and 
dangerous hope/' etc. 

For the rest, Yeats's prose, in its beginnings, when he 
is most under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites and 
Pater, is a little self-consciously archaic it has a Re- 
naissance elaborateness and pomposity; and it is a little 
too close to the language of poetry the meaning is often 
clotted by metaphor. But Yeats's prose, like his verse, has, 
with time, undergone a discipline and emerged with a 
clearer outline. Yeats is to-day a master of prose as well as 
a great poet. He was already magnificent in his intermedi- 
ate period the period of "Per Arnica Silentia Lunae" 
(1917) : "We make out of the quarrel with others rhetoric, 
but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. Unlike the rheto- 
ricians, who get a confident voice from remembering the 
crowd they have won or may win, we sing amid our 
uncertainty; and, smitten even in the presence of the most 
high beauty by the knowledge of our solitude, our rhythm 
shudders. I think, too, that no fine poet, no matter how 
disordered his life, has ever, even in his mere life, had 
pleasure for his end. Johnson and Dowson, friends of my 
youth, were dissipated men, the one a drunkard, the other 
a drunkard and mad about women, and yet they had the 



gravity of men who had found life out and were awaken- 
ing from the dream; and both, one in life and art and 
one in art and less in life, had a continual preoccupation 
with religion. Nor has any poet I have read of or heard of 
or met with been a sentimentalist. The other self, the anti- 
self or the antithetical self, as one may choose to name it, 
comes but to those who are no longer deceived, whose 
passion is reality. The sentimentalists are practical men 
who believe in money, in position, in a marriage bell, and 
whose understanding of happiness is to be so busy whether 
at work or at play, that all is forgotten but the momentary 
aim. They find their pleasure in a cup that is filled from 
Lethe's wharf, and for the awakening, for the vision, for 
the revelation of reality, tradition offers us a different 
word ecstasy." 

This is perhaps still a little too magnificent, still a little 
too much like poetry. But in his autobiography, "The 
Trembling of the Veil" (1922), Yeats has achieved a com- 
bination of grandeur with a certain pungency and home- 
liness which recalls the more lightly and swiftly moving 
writers of the seventeenth century rather than the more 
heavily upholstered ones of the earlier Renaissance. The 
prose of Yeats, in our contemporary literature, is like the 
product of some dying loomcraft brought to perfection 
in the days before machinery. The qualities of a good 
prose style in English to-day are likely to be those of 2 
sound intellectual currency, clipped out by a sharp cut 
ter and stamped by a solvent mint; Rudyard Kipling 
Bernard Shaw and T. S. Eliot, however else they 



differ, have these characteristics in common. Of Samuel 
Butler, Shaw's master, Yeats has written that he was "the 
first Englishman to make the discovery that it is possible 
to write with great effect without music, without style, 
either good or bad, to eliminate from the mind all emo- 
tional implication and to prefer plain water to every vin- 
tage, so much metropolitan lead and solder to any tendril 
of the vine." The style of the seventeenth century, on the 
other hand the style of Walton's "Lives" or Dryden's 
prefaces was a much more personal thing: it fitted the 
author like a suit of clothes and molded itself to the 
natural contours of his temperament and mind; one is 
always aware that there is a man inside, whereas with 
Kipling, Eliot or Shaw, the style seems to aim at the 
effect of an inflexible impersonal instrument specially de- 
signed to perform special functions. Yeats's prose is, how- 
ever, still a garment worn in the old-fashioned personal 
manner with a combination of elegance and ease, at the 
same time that it is unmistakably of our time by virtue of 
a certain modern terseness and of a characteristically mod- 
ern trick we shall encounter it later in Proust of reveal- 
ing by unexpected juxtapositions relations of which one 
had not been aware "He had been almost poor," writes 
Yeats of Wilde in the period before his disaster, "and now, 
his head full of Flaubert, found himself with ten thousand 
a year" or of effecting almost startling transitions from 
the particular to the general and back again. For Yeats has 
become a critic now not merely of literature, but of hu- 
man life and society in general: compare the passage on 



Johnson and Dowson which I have quoted above from 
"Per Arnica Silentia Lunae," with the realistic and subtle 
analysis, in "The Trembling of the Veil," of the causes for 
the final breakdown of that "tragic generation." 


Yeats has shown himself, in his prose writings, a man of 
both exceptionally wide information and exceptional in- 
tellectual curiosity; but, for all the variety of his interests 
and the versatility of his intelligence, he has, in rejecting 
the methods of modern science, cut himself off in a curi- 
ous way from the general enlightened thought of his 
time. Yet his mind is so comprehensive and so active that 
he has felt the need of constructing a system: and, finding 
it impossible to admit the assumptions upon which most 
modern systems are based, he has had recourse to the only 
science which his position has allowed him to accept, the 
obsolete science of Astrology. As a young man, Yeats fre- 
quented clairvoyants and students of Astrology and 
Magic; Madame Blavatsky, the necromantic Theosophist, 
seems to have made upon him a considerable impression. 
And in 1901 he was led to formulate, in an essay on 
Magic, the following set of beliefs, to which he still ap- 
parently adheres: 

"(i) That the borders of our mind arc ever shifting, 
and that many minds can flow into one another, as it 
were, and create or reveal a single mind, a single energy. 



"(2) That the borders of our memories arc as shifting, 
and that our memories are a part of one great memory, 
the memory of Nature herself. 

"(3) That this great mind and great memory can be 
evoked by symbols." 

What Yeats was really approaching here was some such 
systematic study of the symbolism of myths, trances, 
dreams and other human visions as psychoanalysis and 
anthropology were attempting from a different direction. 
And despite the obvious charlatanism or naivete of most 
of his instructors and fellow investigators, Yeats's account 
of his researches is interesting. For it is not merely that 
Yeats loves the marvellous: he is also intent upon discov- 
ering symbols which may stand for the elements of his 
own nature or which shall seem to possess some universal 
significance. The results of this research are very curious. 
When we read Yeats's account of his adventures among 
the mediums, it becomes plain that, in spite of his repudi- 
ation of science, he has always managed to leave himself 
a margin of scientific doubt. Like Huysmans, he betrays 
an instinct to scrutinize and check up on the supernatural 
which is disastrous to genuine mysticism. Just as in 
Huysmans's case, we always feel that the wistful student 
of Satanism has too much solid Dutch common sense 
really to deceive himself about his devils, so in Yeats 
he himself has confessed it the romantic amateur of 
Magic is always accompanied and restrained by the ra- 
tionalistic modern man. "He and I often quarrelled," Yeats 
writes of himself and A. E., "because I wanted him to 


examine and question his visions, and write them out 
as they occurred; and still more because I thought sym- 
bolic what he thought real like the men and women that 
had passed him on the road." Yet Huysmans went so far 
as to claim or at least to make one of his characters 
claim as genuine examples of demoniacal possession 
those very hysteria cases of Charcot's which at that mo- 
ment were leading Charcot's young pupil Freud to his 
first great discovery of the principle of emotional repres- 
sion; and Yeats attributes to a sort of supernatural being 
designated as "Anima Mundi" precisely such universal 
symbols as are studied by such psychologists as Jung. 
What is most curious is that Yeats should at last have con- 
structed out of these symbols an elaborate mystical-meta- 
physical system. 

This system was set forth in "A Vision," a work which 
occupied Yeats for many years and which he published 
privately in 1926. "A Vision" presented an elaborate theory 
of the variation of human personality, of the vicissitudes 
of human history and of the transformations of the soul in 
this world and the next. This theory was worked out 
with geometrical diagrams and set forth in terms of such 
unfamiliar conceptions as daimons, tinctures, cones, gyres, 
husk* and passionate bodies. 

Yeats asserts that human personality follows the pat- 
tern of a "Great Wheel." That is, the types of personality 
possible constitute a kind of closed circle they arc regu- 
lar stages in a circular journey to and fro between com- 
plete objectivity at one pole and complete subjectivity at 



the other; and this journey may be represented by the 
orbit of the moon, to which it corresponds. Let the moon 
represent subjectivity and the sun, objectivity: then the 
dark of the moon, when it is closest to the sun, is the 
phase of complete objectivity; and the full moon, which 
is farthest from the sun, is the phase of complete sub- 
jectivity. At these two opposite poles of the circle, human 
life is impossible: there exist only antipodal types of 
supernatural beings. But along the circumference of the 
circle, between these two ultra-human poles, there occur 
twenty-six phases which cover all possible types of human 

Yeats's theory of the variation of these types is extremely 
complicated. He begins by assigning to "incarnate man" 
four "Faculties": the Will, "by which is understood feel- 
ing that has not become desire ... an energy as yet un- 
influenced by thought, action or emotion"; the Mask, 
which means "the image of what we wish to become, or 
of that to which we give our reverence"; the Creative 
Mind, "the intellect ... all the mind that is consciously 
constructive"; and the Body of Fate, "the physical and 
mental environment, the changing human body, the 
stream of Phenomena as this affects a particular individ- 
ual, all that is forced upon us from without." The Will is 
always opposite the Mask: "it looks into a painted pic- 
ture." The Creative Mind is opposite the Body of Fate: 
"it looks into a photograph; but both look into something 
which is the opposite of themselves." We follow the Will 
around the clock, and by combining it with the other 


cktnents according to geometrical laws we calculate the 
characters of the different phases. Starting at the right of 
the objective pole, the soul passes first through varieties of 
almost purely physical life Yeats takes his examples here 
from the Bacchuses and shepherds of the poets. It is mov- 
ing toward subjectivity, however Walt Whitman, Alex- 
andre Dumas: it is seeking itself, and as it progresses, it 
becomes more beautiful. The ultra-human subjective 
phase, which apparently includes Christ, is described as 
"a phase of complete beauty," where "Thought and Will 
are indistinguishable, effort and attainment are indistin- 
guishable nothing is apparent but dreaming Will and 
the Image that it dreams." This is preceded and followed 
by phases which include Baudelaire and Beardsley; Keats 
and Giorgione; Blake and Rabelais; Dante and Shelley; 
and presumably Yeats himself: men who have withdrawn 
from the life of the world in order to live in their dream. 
But once the all-subjective phase is past, the soul 

". . . would be the world's servant, and as it serves, 
Choosing whatever task's most difficult 
Among tasks not impossible, it takes 
Upon the body and upon the soul 
The coarseness of the drudge. Before the full 
It sought itself and afterwards the world." 

And it is now leaving beauty behind and headed toward 

"Reformer, merchant, statesman, learned man, 
Dutiful husband, honest wife by turn, 



Cradle upon cradle, and all in flight and all 
Deformed because there is no deformity 
But saves us from a dream." 

The soul has now come full circle: the three final human 
phases before the phase of complete objectivity arc the 
Hunchback, the Saint and the Fool. 

Yeats has worked all this out with great care and with 
considerable ingenuity. He has described each of the 
twenty-eight phases and supplied us with typical exam- 
ples. What we find in this part of the book is Yeats's 
familiar preoccupation with the conflict between action 
and philosophy, reality and imagination. (It is amusing 
and characteristic that, according to his system, the side 
of humanity closest to the sun that is, closest the objec' 
tive nature should be the side that is bathed in darkness, 
whereas the side which is furthest from the sun that is, 
nearest the subjective nature should be the side that is 
bright!) Now this is a subject which has hitherto, in 
Yeats's prose as well as in his verse, usually inspired him 
well; the symbols of the Mask, the Sun and Moon, etc., if 
they have sometimes been a little disconcerting when we 
encountered them in his critical writings, have created just 
the right impression of significance in mystery for Sym- 
bolistic poetry. And there are, to be sure, certain passages 
of "A Vision" as brilliant as Yeats at his best. He writes, 
for example, of the phase of "the Receptive Man," to 
which he assigns Rembrandt and Synge: "The man wipes 
his breath from the window pane, and laughs in his de- 
light at all the varied scene." Anil of the phase of "the 



Obsessed Man," to which he assigns Giorgione and Keats: 
"When we compare these images with those of any subse- 
quent phase, each seems studied for its own sake; they 
float as in serene air, or lie hidden in some valley, and if 
they move it is to music that returns always to the same 
note, or in a dance that so returns upon itself that they 
seem immortal." And, in what is perhaps the most elo- 
quent passage in the book, he returns to a certain type 
of beautiful uncontemplative woman who has already 
haunted his poetry: "Here are born those women who are 
most touching in their beauty. Helen was of this phase; 
and she comes before the mind's eye elaborating a delicate 
personal discipline as though she would make her whole 
life an image of a unified antithetical (that is, subjective) 
energy. While seeming an image of softness, and of quiet, 
she draws perpetually upon glass with a diamond. Yet 
she will not number among her sins anything that does 
not break that personal discipline, no matter what it 
may seem according to others' discipline; but if she fail 
in her own discipline she will not deceive herself, and for 
all the languor of her movements, and her indifference to 
the acts of others, her mind is never at peace. She will 
wander much alone as though she consciously meditated 
her masterpiece that shall be at the full moon, yet un- 
seen by human eye, and when she returns to her house 
she will look upon her household with timid eyes, as 
though she knew that all power of self-protection had 
been taken away, and that of her once primary Tincture 
(that is, objective element) nothing remained but a 



strange irresponsible innocence. . . . Already perhaps, 
through weakness of desire, she understands nothing, 
while alone seeming of service. Is it not because she de- 
sires so little and gives so little that men will die and 
murder in her service ?" And there is a strange imaginative 
power in the conception behind the final sequence of the 
Hunchback, the Saint and the Fool. 

Yet "A Vision," when we try to read it, makes us im- 
patient with Yeats. As a rule, he expounds his revelations 
as if he took them seriously that is, as if he believed that 
tnas1(s and husJ(s and daimons and passionate bodies were 
things which actually existed, as if they were as real as 
those visions of A. E.'s which had been as real to A. E. as 
the people in the street, but which Yeats had tried to 
induce him to question; and indeed one would think 
that to elaborate a mystical system so complicated and 
so tedious, it would be necessary to believe in it pretty 
strongly. Yet now and then the skeptical Yeats reasserts 
himself and we are startled by an unexpected suggestion 
that, after all, the whole thing may be merely "a back- 
ground for my thought, a painted scene." If the whole 
thing, we ask ourselves, has been merely an invented 
mythology, in which Yeats himself does not believe, what 
right has he to bore us with it what right has he to ex- 
pect us to explore page after page of such stuff as the 
following description of the habits of the soul after death: 
"The Spirit first floats horizontally within the man's 
dead body, but then rises until it stands at his head. The 
Celestial Body is also horizontal at first but lies in the op- 



posite position, its feet where the Spirit's head is, and then 
rising, as does the Spirit, stands up at last at the feet of 
the man's body. The Passionate Body rises straight up 
from the genitals and stands in the centre. The Hus% 
remains in the body until the time for it to be separated 
and lost in Anima Mundi" 

In "A Packet for Ezra Pound" (1929) a new light is 
thrown on "A Vision." We learn that Yeats's wife is a 
medium, and that the theories set forth in this book were 
communicated through her by supernatural beings. Yeats 
tells us how, four days after their marriage in 1917, Mrs. 
Yeats surprised him by attempting automatic writing. 
"What came in disjointed sentences, in almost illegible 
writing, was so exciting, sometimes so profound, that I 
persuaded her to give an hour or two day after day to the 
unknown writer, and after some half-dozen such hours 
offered to spend what remained of life explaining and 
piecing together those scattered sentences. 'No,' was the 
answer, 'we have come to give you metaphors for poetry/ 
The unknown writer took his theme at first from my just 
published 'Per Arnica Silentia Lunae.' I had made a dis- 
tinction between the perfection that is from a man's com- 
bat with himself and that which is from a combat with 
circumstances, and upon this simple distinction he built up 
an elaborate classification of men according to their more 
or less complete expression of one type or the other. He 
supported his classification by a series of geometrical sym- 
bols and put these symbols in an order that answered the 
question in my essay as to whether some prophet could not 



prick upon the calendar the birth of a Napoleon or a 
Christ." Yeats describes the manifestations which accom- 
panied these revelations: the perfumes, whistlings, smells 
of burnt feathers, bursts of music, apparitions of great 
black birds and of "persons in clothes of the late sixteenth 
century and of the seventeenth." On one occasion, when 
an 6wl was hooting in the garden, the dictating spirit 
asked for a recess: "Sounds like that," the spirit explained, 
"give us great pleasure." And there were also mischievous 
obstructive spirits who attempted to mislead the Yeatscs 
and who were designated as "Frustrators"; "the auto- 
matic script would deteriorate, grow sentimental or con- 
fused, and when I pointed this out the communicator 
would say 'from such and such an hour, on such and such 
a day, all is frustration.* I would spread out the script and 
he would cross all out back to the answer that began it, 
but had I not divined frustration he would have said noth- 

We learn also, by the way, a fact which might, for a 
psychologist, throw a good deal of light on the develop- 
ment of Yeats's personality. It appears that not only has 
Yeats always succeeded in steering clear of science: he has 
never till recently read philosophy. "Apart from two 01 
three of the principal Platonic Dialogues I knew no phi 
losophy. Arguments with my father, whose convictioni 
had been formed by John Stuart Mill's attack upon Sir 
William Hamilton, had destroyed my confidence and 
driven me from speculation to the direct experience of the 
Mystics. I had once known Blake as thoroughly as his 



unfinished confused Prophetic Books permitted, and I 
had read Swedenborg and Boehme^ and my initiation into 
the 'Hermetic Students' had filled my head with Cabalis- 
tic imagery." Now, however, he wants to study philosophy 
as an aid to understanding the "system." The spirits ask 
him to wait till they have finished. At the end of three 
years, when the supernatural revelations have ceased^and 
"A Vision" is actually in proof, Yeats takes down from 
Mrs. Yeats, who, it appears, did not share her husband's 
ignorance, a list of the philosophers she had read. For four 
years, Yeats applies himself to these, and what he finds 
makes him uneasy about "A Vision": he feels that he must 
partly have misinterpreted what the spirits have told him. 
But the spirits themselves intervene to put an end to this 
disquieting situation: they make him stop his philosophi- 
cal studies. 

As we read all this, we say to ourselves that Yeats, grow- 
ing older, has grown more credulous. But we come, at the 
end, to the following passage: "Some will ask if I believe 
all that this book contains, and I will not know how to 
answer. Does the word belief, used as they will use it, be- 
long to our age, can I think of the world as there and I 
here judging it?" And he intimates that, after all, his sys- 
tem may be only a set of symbols like another a set of 
symbols, we recognize, like the Irish myths with which he 

Into the personal situation suggested by Yeats's account 
of his revelations, it is inappropriate and unnecessary to 
go: the psychological situation seems plain. When Yeats, 



at the crucial period of his life, attempted to leave fairy- 
land behind, when he became aware of the unsatisfying 
character of the life of iridescent revery, when he com- 
pletely recreated his style so as to make it solid, homely 
and exact where it had formerly been shimmering or 
florid the need for dwelling with part of his mind or 
with his mind for part of the time in a world of pure 
imagination, where the necessities of the real world do not 
hold, had, none the less, not been conjured away by the 
new artistic and intellectual habits he was cultivating. 
Where the early Yeats had studied Irish folk-lore, col- 
lected and sorted Irish fairy tales, invented fairy tales for 
himself, the later Yeats worked out from the medium- 
istic communications of his wife the twenty-eight phases of 
the human personality and the transformations of the soul 
after death. Yeats's sense of reality to-day is inferior to that 
of no man alive indeed, his greatness is partly due pre- 
cisely to the vividness of that sense. In his poetry, in his 
criticism and in his memoirs, it is the world we all live in 
with which we are confronted the world we know, with 
all its frustrations, its defeats, its antagonisms and its errors 
the mind that sees is not naive, as the heart that feels is 
not insensitive. They meet reality with comprehension 
and with passion but they have phases, we are astonished 
to discover, when they do not seem to meet it at all. Yet 
the scientific criticism of supernatural phenomena is ac- 
tually as much a part of the reality of Yeats's world as it is 
of that of most of the rest of us. And when Yeats writes of 
his supernatural experiences, this criticism, though it may 



be kept in the background, is nevertheless always present 
his realistic sense is too strong, his intellectual integrity 
too high, to leave it out of the picture. Though he is much 
addicted to these fantastic imaginings, though he no doubt 
needs their support to enable him to sustain his r61e of 
great poet yet when he comes to write about his spirits 
and their messages, he cannot help letting us in on the im- 
posture. He believes, but he does not believe: the impos- 
sibility of believing is the impossibility which he accepts 
most reluctantly, but still it is there with the other impos- 
sibilities of this world which is too full of weeping for a 
child to understand. 

It is interesting to compare "A Vision" with that other 
compendious treatise on human nature and destiny by that 
other great writer from Dublin. Bernard Shaw's "Guide to 
Socialism and Capitalism." Here we can see unmistaka- 
bly the differences between the kind of literature which 
was fashionable before the War and the kind which has 
been fashionable since. Shaw and Yeats, both coming as 
young men to London from eighteenth-century Dublin, 
followed diametrically opposite courses. Shaw shouldered 
the whole unwieldy load of contemporary sociology, poli- 
tics, economics, biology, medicine and journalism, while 
Yeats, convinced that the world of science and politics 
was somehow fatal to the poet's vision, as resolutely turned 
away. Shaw accepted the scientific technique and set him- 
self to master the problems of an industrial democratic 
society, while Yeats rejected the methods of Naturalism 
and applied himself to the introspective plumbing of the 



mysteries of the individual mind. While Yeats was edit- 
ing Blake, Shaw was grappling with Marx; and Yeats 
was appalled by Shaw's hardness and efficiency. "I hated 
it," he says of "Arms and the Man"; "it seemed to me in- 
organic, logical straightness and not the crooked road 
of life and I stood aghast before its energy." And he tells 
us that Shaw appeared to him in a dream in the form of a 
sewing machine, "that clicked and shone, but the incredi- 
ble thing was that the machine smiled, smiled perpetu- 

In his Great Wheel of the twenty-eight phases, Yeats has 
situated Shaw at a phase considerably removed from his 
own, and where the individual is headed straight for the 
deformity of seeking, not the soul, but the world. And 
their respective literary testaments the "Vision" and 
the "Guide" published almost at the same time, mark 
the extreme points of their divergence: Shaw bases all 
human hope and happiness on an equal distribution of 
income, which he believes will finally make impossible 
even the pessimism of a Swift or a Voltaire; while Yeats, 
like Shaw a Protestant for whom the Catholic's mysticism 
was impossible, has in "A Vision" made the life of hu- 
manity contingent on the movements of the stars. "The 
day is far off," he concludes, "when the two halves of 
man can divine each its own unity in the other as in a 
mirror, Sun in Moon, Moon in Sun, and so escape out of 
the Wheel." 



Yet, in the meantime, the poet Yeats has passed into a 
sort of third phase, in which he is closer to the common 
world than at any previous period. He is no longer quite 
so haughty, so imperturbably astride his high horse, as 
during his middle Dantesque period. With the Dantesque 
mask, he has lost something of intensity and something 
of sharpness of outline. In "The Tower" (1928), certain 
words such as "bitter," "wild," and "fierce," which he was 
able, a few years ago, to use with such thrilling effect, 
have no longer quite the same force. He writes more 
loosely, and seems to write more easily. He has become 
more plain-spoken, more humorous his mind seems to 
run more frankly on his ordinary human satisfactions 
and chagrins: he is sometimes harsh, sometimes sensual, 
sometimes careless, sometimes coarse. 

Though he now inhabits, like Michael Robartes, a 
lonely tower on the outermost Irish coast, he has spent six 
years in the Irish senate, presiding at official receptions in 
a silk hat, inspecting the plumbing of the government 
schools and conscientiously sitting through the movies 
which it is one of his official duties to censor. He is much 
occupied with politics and society, with general reflec- 
tions on human life but with the wisdom of the experi- 
ence of a lifetime, he is passionate even in age. And he 
writes poems which charge now with the emotion of a 
great lyric poet that profound and subtle criticism of life 
of which I have spoken in connection with his prose. 



We may take, as an example of Yeats's later vein, the 
fine poem in "The Tower" called "Among School Chil- 
dren." The poet, now "a sixty year old smiling public 
man," has paid an official visit to a girls' school kept by 
nuns; and as he gazes at the children there, he remem- 
bers how the woman he had loved had told him once of 
some "harsh reproof or trivial event" of her girlhood 
which had changed "some childish day to tragedy." And 
for a moment the thought that she may once have looked 
like one of the children before him has revived the excite- 
ment of his old love. He remembers the woman in all 
her young beauty and thinks of himself with his present 
sixty years "a comfortable kind of old scarecrow." What 
use is philosophy now? is not all beauty bound up with 
the body and doomed to decay with it ? is not even the 
divine beauty itself which is worshipped there by the 
nuns inseparable from the images of it they adore? 

"Labor is blossoming or dancing where 
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul, 
Nor beauty born out of its own despair, 
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil. 
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer, 

I Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? 
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, 
How can we know the dancer from the dance?*' 

Here the actual scene in the convent, the personal emo- 
tions it awakens and the general speculations which these 
emotions suggest, have been interwoven and made to play 
upon each other at the same time that they are kept sepa- 



rate and distinct A complex subject has been treated in 
the most concentrated form, and yet without confusion. 
Perceptions, fancies, feelings and thoughts have all their 
place in the poet's record. It is a moment of human life, 
masterfully seized and made permanent, in all its nobility 
and lameness, its mystery and actuality, its direct personal 
contact and abstraction. 



TJAUL VALERY first met Mallarm^ in 1892, when 
-*- Valry was twenty-one: he became thereafter one of 
the most faithful and serious of Mallarme's disciples. 
Valery wrote little at this time and did not even collect 
his verses in a book; yet the Symbolists of what was then 
the younger generation seem to have acknowledged his 
supremacy from the beginning. What we find in these 
poems to-day is chiefly the chaste-celestial, the blue-and- 
white mood of such poems of Mallarme's as "Apparition" 
in what seems a thinner diluted form. Paul Valery, like his 
master, is "haunted" by the "azure"; but that azure is less 
a pure blue realm and more a rarefied upper air. Here and 
there in these early poems, however, the later Valery is 
plainly recognizable: it is his characteristic interest in 
method apart from matter which leads him to publish 
two versions of the same sonnet; and in the uncom- 
pleted "Profusion du Soir," perhaps the most remarkable 
of these poems, by a confusion peculiar to Val6ry the sun- 
set which the poet is watching is assimilated to his state 
of mind until it seems sometimes only a set of images for 
a complex of emotions and thoughts. 

Valery has given us a curious description of his attitude 
toward Mallarm at this time: 

"When I began to see Mallarm^, I had almost entirely 



lost my interest in literature. Reading and writing were 
becoming dull work for me, and I confess that they still 
bore me a little. The study of myself for its own sake, the 
comprehension of that attention itself and the desire to 
trace clearly for myself the nature of my own existence, 
almost never abandoned me. This secret disease alienates 
one from letters, despite the fact that it has its source in 

"Mallarme figured, however, in my private system as 
the representative of the most accomplished art, as the 
highest phase of the loftiest literary ambition. In a deep 
sense, I had his mind for a companion, and I hoped that r 
despite the difference in our ages, and the immense dis- 
parity of our gifts, the day would come when I should 
not be afraid to lay before him my difficulties and my 
special ideas. It was not in the least that he intimidated 
me, for no one was ever more kindly or more charmingly 
simple than he; but I felt, at that time, a sort of contrast 
between the practice of literature and the pursuit of a 
certain rigor and of a complete intellectual sincerity. The 
question is infinitely delicate. Should I attempt to induce 
Mallarm6 to discuss it ? I was fond of him and valued him 
above everybody, but I myself had renounced the adora- 
tion of that which he had adored all his life, and to which 
he had offered up everything, and I could not bring my- 
self to let him know it. 

"I could, however, see no more genuine homage than 
to lay my thought before him, and to show him how 
much his researches, and the very fine and precise analysis 



from which they proceeded, had in my eyes transformed 
the literary problem and had led me to give up the game. 
The point was that Mallarme's efforts, which were quite 
opposed to the doctrines and aims of his contemporaries, 
were tending to order the whole domain of letters through 
the general consideration of forms. It is remarkable in 
the extreme that, through the exhaustive study of his art 
and with no scientific education, he should have arrived 
at a conception so abstract and so close to the most abstruse 
speculations of certain of the sciences. He never discussed 
his ideas except figuratively. Explaining anything explicit- 
ly was strangely repugnant to him. His profession, which 
he detested, counted for something in that aversion. But, 
in attempting to sum up to myself his tendencies, I al- 
lowed myself to formulate them in my own way. Ordi- 
nary literature seemed to me comparable to an arithmetic, 
that is to say, to an attempt to obtain particular results in 
which it was difficult to distinguish the principle from the 
example: but the kind of literature which he had con- 
ceived seemed to me analogous to an algebra, for it as- 
sumed the intention to emphasize, to conserve and to de- 
velop the forms of which language is capable. 

"But from the moment, I said to myself, that a prin- 
ciple has been recognized and grasped by someone, it is 
quite useless to waste one's time applying it. ... 

"The day I was awaiting never came." 

Mallarm died in 1898. But Paul Valery had already 
passed through a personal crisis as a result of which he had 
ceased to write verse. This moral and intellectual crisis 



was precipitated, Valery Larbaud tells us, by an unhappy 
love affair. Through sleepless nights Valery struggled 
with his emotions: "the will was driven back on itself, 
schooled itself to leap clear, to break idols, to free itself, at 
no matter what cost, from those falsehoods: literature and 
sentiment. The supreme crisis, the costly victory took 
place during a stormy night one of those storms of the 
Ligurian coast [he was at Genoa] which are not accom- 
panied by very much rain, but during which the lightning 
is so frequent and so bright that it gives the illusion of 
broad daylight. From that night none of the things which 
bad hitherto made up the life of the young man mattered 
any longer. He left Montpellier [where he had studied at 
the university] and went to live in Paris, where he would 
be able, when he chose, to shut himself away in solitude, 
in order to give himself up to that 'penetration of him- 
self/ which has now become his only concern." 

During the twenty years that follow, Valery works in 
the Ministry of War and in the Havas news agency, and 
produces no more verse. The "study of oneself for its own 
sake, the comprehension of that attention itself and the 
desire to trace clearly for oneself the nature of one's own 
existence" is the only thing which interests him now. Dur^ 
ing these years he writes his "Introduction to the Method 
Df Leonardo da Vinci" and invents his mythological char- 
acter, M. Teste. Both Leonardo da Vinci and M. Teste 
(Mr. Head, a companion creation to Rabelais's Messer 
Gaster, Mr. Belly) are, for Valry, symbols of the pure 
intellect, of the human consciousness turned in upon it- 



self. The mind of Leonardo in itself is something im- 
measurably greater than any of its manifestations in par- 
ticular fields of activity painting, writing, engineering or 
strategy. Action cramps and impoverishes the mind. For 
by itself the mind is able to deal with an infinite number 
of possibilities it is not constrained by the limitations of 
a field. The mind by itself is omnipotent. And conse- 
quently the method, the theory, of doing anything is more 
interesting than the thing done. For the method may be 
applied so much more widely may be universally ap- 
plied. When a principle, in fact, "has been recognized and 
grasped, it is quite useless to waste one's time applying 

And M. Teste, unlike Leonardo, does disdain to apply 
his method to anything. His whole existence is given up 
to the examination of his own intellectual processes. He is 
a symbol of the human consciousness isolated from "all 
the opinions and intellectual habits which spring from 
the common life and our external relations with other 
men," and disembarrassed of "all the sentiments and ideas 
which are engendered or excited in man by his misfor- 
tunes and his fears, his terrors and his hopes; and not 
freely by his sheer observations upon the world and upon 
himself." M. Teste is, in fact, as his creator admits, frankly 
a monster. And though he exerts upon us a certain fascina- 
tion, we resent him he gives us the creeps. We sympa- 
thize with Mme. Teste, who is made uneasy by M. Teste's 
preoccupation, by his way of entering a room as if he did 
not sec it, by his addressing her as "Being" or "Thing." 



Yet though she fears him, though she does not understand 
him, she has never ceased to adore him she docSs not 
envy other women who have married ordinary men. And 
he, when he awakes from his meditations, sometimes 
seizes upon her brusquely, as if with relief, appetite and 
surprise. M. Teste and Mme. Teste are, after all, indis- 
pensable to each other. 

In 1917, Valery marries a lady of Mallarme's circle. And 
at the end of twenty years, he begins writing again. Andr 
Gide has finally persuaded him to allow his early poems to 
be collected and published, and he has had the idea of 
adding to them a new poem of from twenty-five to fifty 
lines the last, perhaps, which he will ever write. But, 
in the meantime, during his period of retirement, he has 
studied psychology, physiology, mathematics he has be- 
come preoccupied with questions of method. "Twenty 
years without writing verse, without even attempting to 
write it, almost even without reading any! . . . Then, 
these problems presenting themselves again; and one's dis- 
covering that one did not know one's trade; that the little 
poems one had written long ago had evaded all the diffi- 
culties, suppressed what they did not know how to ex- 
press; made use of an infantile language." For his new 
poem, he imposes upon himself "laws, constant require- 
ments, which constitute its true object. It is an exercise, 
indeed intended as such, and worked and reworked: a 
production entirely of deliberate effort; and then of a sec- 
ond deliberate effort, whose hard task is to mask the first. 
He who knows how to read me will read an autobiog- 



raphy, in the form. The matter is of small importance.'* 
And this poem, which was to have filled but a page, 
occupies Valery for more than four years and runs finally 
to five hundred and forty verses. At the last moment, 
when it is just about to be printed (1917), Valery finds for 
it the title, "La Jeune Parque." But, in spite of its title, 
its heroic grand manner and its reverberating alexandrines, 
"La Jeune Parque" is no conventional French poem on a 
subject from Greek mythology. Valery speaks of the 
"rather monstrous copulation of my system, my methods 
and my musical exigencies with the classical conventions." 
And it is certain that this mysterious poem represents a 
genre which has never appeared in literature before. Mal- 
larme's Herodiade and his Faun are the precursors of 
Valery's young Fate: they have already a certain am- 
biguity and seem at moments less imaginary personages 
than names attached to metaphysical reveries. But Valery 
has carried the subtleties of conception, the complexities of 
presentation, of this characteristically Symbolist form 
much further than Mallarm. Is "La Jeune Parque" the 
monologue of a young Fate, who has just been bitten by 
a snake? Is it the revery of the poet himself, awakening 
early one morning in bed and lying more or less awake 
till dawn? Is it the voyage of the human consciousness 
testing out all its limitations, exploring all its horizons: 
love, solitary thought, action, sleep, death ? the drama of 
the mind which would withdraw from the world and 
rise superior to it but which is inevitably pulled back into 
life and involved in the processes of nature? It is all of 



these yet the various strata, "physical, psychological and 
esoteric," as Francis de Miomandre describes them* are 
not overlaid one upon the other as in a conventional alle- 
gory or fable. They are confused and are always melting 
into one another and it is this which makes the ob- 
scurity of the poem. The things that happen in "La Jeune 
Parque" and in Paul Valery's other mythological mono- 
logues the Narcissus, the Pythoness and the Serpent 
of the rich period of poetic activity which followed im- 
mediately upon "La Jeune Parque" are never, on the 
one hand, quite imaginable as incidents which are actually 
taking place and never, on the other hand, quite reducible 
merely to thoughts in the poet's mind. The picture never 
quite emerges; the idea is never formulated quite. And 
for all the magnificences of sound, color, and suggestion 
which we find in these poems stanza by stanza, it seems to 
me that they are unsatisfactory because they are somehow 
not assimilable as wholes. 

Yet Paul Valery, when we put him beside Mallarme, 
whom he echoes in these poems so often, is seen to possess 
the more vigorous intellect and the more solid imagina- 
tion. Mallarme is always a painter, usually a water-color- 
ist he wrote verses for ladies' fans as he might have 
painted little figures and flowers on them. He has his 
brightness and relief, but it is only such brightness and re- 
lief as is possible to someone working in the flat whereas 
Valery's genius is sculptural rather: these mythological 
poems have a density of cloud-shapes heavily massed if 
they were not clouds, we should call them marmoreal. He 



gives us figures and groups half disengaged and he runs 
to effects less of color than of light: the silvery, the sombre, 
the sunny, the translucent, the crystalline. And his verses 
carry off with the emphasis of an heroic resounding dic- 
tion reminiscent of Alfred de Vigny the fluid waverings, 
the coy ambiguities and the delicately caught nuances 
which he has learned from Mallarm. If Mallarme was to 
sapply subjects for Debussy, Valery, outliving Debussy's 
vogue, was to be inspired in "La Jeune Parque" by Gluck. 
Valery is, indeed, a sort of masculine of an art of which 
Mallarme is the feminine. The elements in Mallarm 
which made it possible for him to edit a woman's maga- 
zine and to write with his characteristic daintiness about 
styles in women's clothes is complemented, in Valry, by 
a genius more powerful and stout which has a natural 
affinity with that of the architect. 

And there is more substance in Valery than in Mallarme. 
In spite of his insistence that it is only the form, only the 
method in his work which interests him, Vatery's poetry 
has a certain dramatic quality. He is preoccupied with a 
particular conflict the conflict between that part of man's 
existence which is represented by the abstraction of M. 
Teste and that part which is submerged in the sensations, 
distracted by the accidents, of the everyday world. If one 
were to read only "M. Teste" though M. Teste is pre- 
sented with some humor or if one were to read only 
Valry's prose, one might take him for one of the dryest 
and one of the most relentlessly abstract of minds. And 
it is true that the point of view of M. Teste figures con* 



spicuously in the poetry of Valfry, as it predominates in 
his prosethat none of his characters is ever allowed to 
have a life independent of the intellectual world where 
at any moment he may appear as an abstraction, and 
that we suspect Valry of preferring to human subjects, 
or at least of finding more satisfactory, the marble col- 
umns and stately palms which he makes the heroes of 
certain of his poems. It is true that even in love he tends 
to seek to suspend sensual satisfaction and keep his mis- 
tress in the timeless imminence which is for him a rival 
satisfaction begging the woman in "Les Pas" not to hast- 
en, for he enjoys awaiting her as much as her kiss, and 
making his Serpent say to Eve, when she is on the point 
of tasting the fruit of the tree: 

"Que si ta bouchc fait un rve, 
Cette soif qui songe 4 la sive, 
Ce d&ice & demi futur, 
C'est r&crnit fondantc, Eve!" 

He seems, in fact, to prefer women asleep, or fatigued, be- 
cause he can think of them then, as in "Dormeuse," as forms 
of pure abstraction, from which the personality has de- 
parted, or because he can reflect, as in "La Fausse Morte," 
that the satiety of love is a kind of death; he likes to im- 
agine them, as in "Int&ieur," insubstantial transparent pres- 
ences who pass before the eyes of the mind like glass 
through the beams of the sun. Yet there has perhaps never 
been a poet who enjoyed the sensuous world with more 
gusto than Val6ry or who more solidly bodied it forth. In 



the reproduction, in beautiful verses, of shapes, sounds, 
effects of light and shadow, substances of fruit or flesh, 
Valery has never been surpassed. Of the summer cicada, 
he writes: 

"L'insecte net gratte la scheresse" . . . 
of a cemetery by the sea: 

"Ou tant de marbre cst trcmblant sur tant d'ombres" . , . 

of the pool of Narcissus, when it is evening in the forest 
"une tendre lueur d'heure ambigue existe" and the water 
is smooth as a mirror: 

"Onde deserte, et digne 
Sur son lustre, du lisse effacement d'un cygne" . . . 

of a rough sea: 

"Si Tame intense souffle, et renfle furibonde 
L'onde abrupte sur Ponde abbatue, et si 1'onde 
Au cap tonne, immolant un monstrc de candeur, 
Et vient des hautes mers vomir la profondeur 
Sur ce roc" . . . 

And his human figures are like heroic statues which have 
yet a vibrancy and a soft envelopment. His Serpent puts 
before us an Eve of Michael Angelo: 

"Calme, claire, de charmcs lourdc, 
Je dominais furtivemcnt, 
L'oeil dans For ardent de ta laine, 
Ta nuque nigmatique ct pleine 
DCS secrets de ton mouvement!" 


And later, when she is tempted: 

"Le marbrc aspire, Tor se cambrel 
Ces blondes bases d'ombre et d'ambre 
Tremblent au bord du mouvement!" 

And in one marvellous line of "Dormeuse," he reveals a 
whole recumbent figure: 

"Ta forme au vcntrc pur qu'un bras fluide drape." 

Valery's poetry is then always shifting back and forth 
between this palpable and visible world and a realm of 
intellectual abstraction. And the contrast between them, 
the conflict implied between the absolute laws of the mind 
and the limiting contingencies of life, opposites impos- 
sible to dissociate from one another, is, as I say, the real 
subject of his poems. Rather an unpromising subject, one 
might suppose one, at any rate, entirely remote from the 
emotions of Romantic poetry. Yet this queer antagonism 
has inspired Valery to some of the most original poetry 
ever written, to some of the indubitably great poetry of 
our time. We may take as an example of this theme 
treated on Valery's full scale his most popular and perhaps 
most satisfactory poem, "Le Cimetiere Marin," which cele- 
brates Valery's return to poetry after his long period of in- 
activity. Here the poet has stopped at noon beside a 
graveyard by the sea: the sun seems to stand still above 
him; the water looks as level as a roof on which the 
boats are doves walking. The external world at the mo- 
ment seems to figure that absolute toward which Valery 



is always turning, with which he has been for so many 
years obsessed. Yet, "O Noonday!" he cries, "for all your 
immobility, I am the secret change in you I am the flaw 
in your enormous diamond!" But the dead, there below, 
they have gone to join the void they have become a part 
of inanimate nature. And suppose he himself, the living 
man, has, alive, merely the illusion of movement like 
the runner or the arrow of Zeno's paradoxes? "But no!" 
he exhorts himself. "Break up that brooding, that im- 
mobility, which has all but absorbed you!" The salt wind 
is already rising to break up the tranquil roof of the sea, 
and to dash it against the rocks. The world enters into 
movement again and the poet must go back to life! 

It is quite impossible, however, in other language, to 
provide a scenario for one of Valery's poems: in doing so, 
one must leave out almost all that is most characteristic of 
Valery. In trying to clear up his meaning, one clears it 
up too much. The truth is that there are no real ideas, no 
real general reflections, in such a poem as "Le Cimetire 
Marin": Valery presents, even more completely than Yeats 
in such a poem as "Among School Children," the emotion 
merged with the idea and both embedded in the scene 
where they have occurred. It is the aim and the triumph 
of the Symbolist poet to make the stabilities of the ex- 
ternal world answer to the individual's varying appre- 
hension of them. It is, indeed, his effect, if not his pur- 
pose, to lead us to question the traditional dualism which 
would make them out to be two separate things. In such 
4 poem as "Le Cimetire Marin," there is no simple sec* 



ond meaning: there is a marvellously close reproduction 
of the very complex and continually changing relation of 
human consciousness to the things of which it is conscious. 
The noonday is inorganic Nature, but it is also the abso- 
lute in the poet's mind, it is also his twenty years of in- 
action and it is also merely the noonday itself, which in a 
moment will no longer exist, which will be no longer 
either tranquil or noon. And the sea, which, during those 
moments of calm, forms a part of that great diamond of 
nature in which the poet finds himself the single blemish, 
because the single change, is also the image of the poet's 
silence, which in a moment, as the wind comes up to lash 
the sea, will give way to a sudden gust of utterance, the 
utterance of the poem itself. World and poet are always 
overlapping, are always interpenetrating, as they might in 
a Romantic poem; but the Symbolist will not even try, 
as the Romantic would be likely to do, to keep their rela- 
tions consistent. The conventions of the poem's imagery 
change as quickly and as naturally as the images passing 
through the poet's mind. 


Since "Charmes" (1922), Paul Val&y has published no 
more poetry, but a good deal of miscellaneous prose. 
Valery's prose, in spite of the extravagant respect with 
which it is treated by his admirers, is by no means so re- 
markable as his verse. In the first place, it seems doubtful 



whether Val6ry has ever really mastered a prose style. 
There are many admirable things in his essays, passages 
of a fine terseness, tightness and wit, but the prose is al- 
ways liable to get snarled in a knot of words which balks 
the understanding at the same time that it exasperates the 

The opacities of Valery's prose are usually attributed by 
Valery's admirers, who in this only follow the intima- 
tions of the master himself, to the originality and pro- 
fundity of his ideas. But the truth is that, when we go 
through Valery's essays, we are unable to find many 
ideas. We find simply, as we do in his poetry, the pres- 
entation of intellectual situations, instead of the develop- 
ment of lines of thought. A French critic has already 
taxed Valery with being a philosopher who won't phi- 
losophize; and it is true that the "rigor" of which he is 
always talking is rather an artistic effect of his prose, 
produced by certain devices of style like the artistic effects 
of his poems, than a quality of his logic. In spite of his 
passion for method, Valery seems to have taken singu- 
larly little trouble to sort out or set in order his ideas: 
like M. Teste, he is occupied rather with savoring his in- 
tellectual sensations and in coining more or less mixed 
metaphors to convey them. And though it is possible to a 
certain extent to share his enjoyment of this pastime, in 
the long run we find it dreary and even repellent. What, 
we ask, has Valery-Teste succeeded in dredging up by that 
abysmal self-scrutiny of his? Why, not much more than 
the realization, which he is hardly the first to have arrived 


at, that all forms of intellectual activity even those which 
seem on the surface very different: poetry and mathe- 
matics, for example are fundamentally the same sort of 
thing, merely arrangements or organizations of selected 
elements of experience. In so far as Valery really deals in 
ideas, he is, in fact, a sort of super-dilettante, who, though 
he has many passages of pungent writing and stimulating 
insight, is just as likely, with groans of heavy labor, to un- 
load a ponderous platitude. Most of Valry's reputation 
for profundity comes, I believe, from the fact that ne was 
one of the first literary men to acquire a smattering of the 
new mathematical and physical theory. Valery has, it is 
true, made interesting use of this, but one wishes some- 
times that he would either go further with it or leave phi- 
losophy alone. He never seems to have gotten over his first 
excitement at reading Poincar, and he is still rather snob- 
bish about it: he is always telling us how difficult it is 
going to be to make us understand this or that, and then 
the portentous thought, when it comes, turns out to be one 
of the commonplaces of modern scientific philosophy 
the sort of thing which J. W. N. Sullivan, for example, 
has had no difficulty in explaining lucidly in the short 
popular essays of his "Aspects of Science." 

As a literary critic, however, Valery has both interest 
and importance. He is perhaps the principal exponent in 
France of a peculiar point of view about poetry which has 
gained currency with the progress of modern Symbolism. 
The Romantics thought of a poem as primarily a piece of 
self-expression a gushing forth of emotion, a bursting 



into song. The conception fashionable to-day is quite dif- 
ferent: the doctrines of Symbolism were in some ways 
closely analogous to the doctrines of Romanticism, but in 
this respect the later Symbolists are at the opposite pole 
from the Romantics. Paul Valery's attitude toward poetry 
is both more esoteric and more scientific than that of 
Romantic criticism. 

Valery had already in 1894, in his "Introduction to the 
Method of Leonardo da Vinci," defined a work of art as 
"a machine intended to excite and combine the individual 
formations" of a particular "category of minds." And from 
the time of "La Jeune Parque," he has never ceased to 
insist that a poem is an intricate intellectual problem, a 
struggle with self-imposed conditions that it is, above 
all, something constructed. Or, according to a favorite 
simile of Valery's, a poem is like a heavy weight which 
the poet has carried to the roof bit by bit the reader is 
the passer-by upon whom the weight is dropped all at 
once and who consequently receives from it in a moment 
an overwhelming impression, a complete aesthetic effect, 
such as the poet has never known in composing it. "Enthu- 
siasm," says Valery, "is not an artist's state of mind." And 
also: "Genius is a habit which certain people acquire." 
"X wants us to believe that a metaphor is a communica- 
tion from Heaven. A metaphor is what occurs when one 
looks at things in a certain way, as getting dazzled is what 
occurs when one looks into a sun. When one looks at 
things in what way? You feel it, and some day it will 
perhaps be possible to explain it in the most precise terms. 



Do this and that and you have all the metaphors in the 

This apparently cool and analytic attitude, however, is 
accompanied, curiously enough, by an excessively esoteric 
conception of poetry. This conception is most clearly 
stated and its weakness, it seems to be, made most clearly 
manifest in a preface which Valery has just contributed 
to a commentary on his own "Charmes" by the French 
essayist Alain (this scholastic layer upon layer of com- 
mentary is itself very characteristic of the contemporary 
criticism of poetry). Here we find, as usual, the scientific 
approach which it occurs to us, as we read, is largely a 
matter of scientific similes: "There are certain rather mys- 
terious bodies which physics studies and which chemistry 
uses: I always think of them when I reflect upon works 
of art." These are the catalytic agents, which precipitate 
chemical changes without being affected themselves. So 
the work of art, says Valery, acts upon the mind into 
which it is introduced. Even when chemically considered, 
then, the work of art remains something "mysterious." 
And by "works of art," it further appears that, in the de- 
partment of literature, Valery means poetry exclusively. 
Prose, he says, has "sense" for its sole object but the ob- 
ject of poetry is something not only more mysterious, but 
also apparently more occult: "There is absolutely no ques- 
tion in poetry of one person's transmitting to another 
something intelligible that is going on in his mind. It 
is a question of creating in the latter a state whose ex- 
pression is precisely and uniquely that which communi- 



cates it to him. Whatever image or emotion is formed in 
the amateur of poems, it is valid and sufficient if it pro- 
duces in him this reciprocal relation between the word- 
cause and the word-effect. The result is that the reader 
enjoys a very great freedom in regard to ideas, a freedom 
analogous to that which one recognizes in the case of the 
hearer of music, though not so intensive." 

It seems to me that a pretense to exactitude is here used 
to cover a number of ridiculously false assumptions, and 
to promote a kind of aesthetic mysticism rather than to 
effect a scientific analysis. In the first place, is it not absurd 
to assert that prose deals exclusively in "sense" as distin- 
guished from suggestion, and that one has no right to 
expect from poetry, as Valery says in another passage, 
"any definite notion at all" ? Is verse really an intellectual 
product absolutely different in kind from prose? Has it 
really an absolutely different function ? Are not both prose 
and verse, after all, merely techniques of human inter- 
communication, and techniques which have played vari- 
ous roles, have been used for various purposes, in different 
periods and civilizations? The early Greeks used verse for 
their histories, their romances and their laws the Greeks 
and the Elizabethans used it for their dramas. If Valery's 
definitions are correct, what becomes of Homer, Virgil, 
Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe? They all of them deal 
in sense as well as suggestion and aim to convey "definite 
notions." These definitions have, however, obviously been 
framed to apply to the poetry of Val6ry himself and of 
Mallarm6 and the other Symbolists. Yet it docs not really 



apply even to them. As we have seen, Valery's poetry does 
make sense, it does deal with definite subjects, it docs 
transmit to us "something intelligible that is going on 
inside his mind." Even though in calling his book of 
poems "Charmes," he has tried to emphasize its esoteric, 
magical, non-utilitarian character, we cannot admit that it 
is anything but an effort like another of articulate human 
speech. What happens when we communicate with each 
other, in literature as well as in curses and cries for help, 
and in verse as well as in prose what part is played by 
"sense" and what part is played by suggestion, and 
whether sense and suggestion are different and separable 
are questions which take us far and deep: I shall return 
to them in a later chapter. But Valery has already let us 
see it is even one of his favorite ideas that he under- 
stands the basic similarity between the various forms of 
intellectual activity; he has taken pride in pointing out 
the kinship between poetry and mathematics. And if the 
function and methods of poetry are similar to those of 
mathematics, they must surely be similar to those of prose. 
If Valery resembles Descartes, as he seems willingly to 
indulge himself in imagining, then it is impossible to 
make a true distinction between a philosophical or mathe- 
matical treatise and however Symbolistic a poem. Val6ry 
betrays himself here, it seems to me, as a thinker anything 
but "rigorous"; and he betrays also, I believe, a desire, de- 
fensive no doubt at the same time as snobbish, to make it 
appear that verse, a technique now no longer much used for 
history, story-telling or drama and consequently not much 



in popular demand, has some inherent superiority to prose. 
He has not hesitated even to assure us elsewhere that 
"poetry is the most difficult of the arts"! 


With all respect for Val&y's intelligence, for his candor 
and independence, it must be admitted that he is taken 
too seriously and perhaps takes himself too seriously as 
a universal sage. "Stupidity is not my forte," he says 
and though we are willing to agree, we should prefer not 
to hear him say it. A great poet, we should prefer not to 
have him continually explaining what superhuman labor 
it has cost him to compose his poems and intimating that, 
in comparison with his own work, the poetry of other 
poets is mostly facile and superficial especially when we 
remember his replying to a correspondent who had com- 
plained of some awkward inversion in "La Jeune Parque" 
that the reader had happened to hit upon precisely one 
of those passages in the poem which Valery had "literally 
improvised in the hasty lassitude of finishing it up." 

The pretentious and snobbish side of Valery was seen at 
its worst on the occasion of his election to the French 
Academy, when he succeeded to Anatole France's chair 
and had to deliver an address upon his predecessor an 
incident which is worth dwelling upon, however, because 
it has a certain historical importance. Valery behaved on 
this occasion in a highly unconventional manner. In the 
first place, it appears that at the Academy the uniforms are 


passed on from generation to generation and that a new 
member fits himself as best he can from such old uni- 
forms as arc available as American college graduates at 
commencement rent old graduation gowns. Paul Valry, 
however, is reported to have astounded the Academicians 
by appearing in a smart brand-new uniform which he 
had had made for him by a fashionable tailor. The address 
on Anatole France which he then read is said to have been 
received with consternation. It has always been the custom 
for the newly elected member to compose an "tlogc" on 
the man he is succeeding; but, instead of the usual com- 
plimentary obituary, Valery delivered himself of a piece 
of criticism which can hardly be described as anything 
less than an attack. Anatole France had been unfriendly 
to Symbolism in the days when it had been new and un- 
popular: he had said that he could "never believe in the 
success of a literary school which expressed difficult 
thoughts in obscure language." He had made fun of Mai- 
larme and spoken contemptuously of Rimbaud, And in his 
own writing he had represented that French tradition of 
classical lucidity and simplicity against which the Sym- 
bolists were rebelling. Now Paul Valery is only the sec- 
ond Symbolist to have been admitted to the French 
Academy, and his election was like a final official recog- 
nition of the literary party which had once been out- 
lawed. His funeral sermon on Anatole France is com- 
posed in the mood of a none too generous victor, at once 
complaining and cocky. Valery adopts the general tone of 
desiring in a patronizing way to say something kindly and 



appreciative about France, but everything that he says 
turns out to sound disparaging. He takes up seriatim all 
the charges which have been made against France since 
his death such as the meaningless gossip to the effect 
that, if it had not been for Mme. de Caillavet, he would 
never have accomplished anything and, with the air of 
mitigating their seriousness, somehow succeeds in giving 
them weight. He speaks of France's "sinuosity" and pru- 
dence in such a way as to convey the impression that he 
was timid and insincere (since, though France had invited 
popular hatred, had sacrificed his place in the Academy 
and had embroiled himself with his friends, in defending 
the innocence of Dreyfus, he had failed to understand and 
champion Symbolism) ; and he concludes that, in view of 
France's humble origins (he was the son of a bookseller 
on the quais), he had really done very well indeed. Valery 
furthermore refrains throughout in a marked and insult- 
ing manner from mentioning France's name a perfectly 
innocuous pseudonym derived from a family nickname 
for Anatole-Fran^ois and makes upon it the following 
comment: "He himself would not have been possible, 
would scarcely have been conceivable, except in France, 
whose name he assumed. Under that name, so difficult to 
carry off, and which it required so much assurance to 
adopt, he won the favor of the universe. He presented it, 
indeed, with a France possessing all those specious quali- 
ties with which, if she herself were to remain satisfied, the 
universe would suffer; but which were agreeable to him 
and to which he did not feel any objection," Valery goes 



on to speak at length of France, the nation (Valery him- 
self is half Italian, and a tendency to think in Italian is 
evidently at the bottom of some of the peculiarities of his 
style), and ends his address on a high note of patriotism. 
Now one would naturally not expect Paul Valery to go 
against his convictions, or even politely to conceal them 
with evasions, merely because he had happened to succeed 
to the place of a writer of whom he disapproved. Further- 
more, with Valery's criticisms of France it is partly pos- 
sible to agree. It is not without reason that Anatole France 
has come to represent to many French literary people all 
that is elegantly second-rate in the writing of the previous 
generation. France was the last great writer of a tradition 
and in his work the peculiar weaknesses of the tradition 
became, in consequence, especially conspicuous. It is true 
that before he died, he had lived long enough to have 
produced certain books which, for their empty unctuous- 
ness and suavity, their mechanical neatness of form, do 
tend to discourage us rather with Renanian irony and pity 
and with classical symmetry and clearness. It was time 
that those formulas should be discarded there was noth- 
ing more to be done along those lines. And Valery is one 
of those who have abolished them. Yet, with all faith in 
the methods of Symbolism, with all enthusiasm for its 
achievements, as one reads this patronizing and feline 
paper one cannot help rebelling against what appears to 
be Valery's assumption that it is impossible at the same 
time to be profound and to write as lightly and lucidly as 
France did. Valery himself seems deliberately on this oc- 



casion to have avoided writing attractively or clearly: 
though his subject is not in the least metaphysical, though 
there is nothing in the least difficult about what he is say- 
ing, this address is perhaps his masterpiece of bad writing. 
Never have Valery's viscous prose, his masses of clot- 
ted abstractions, his hindside-foremost presentations of 
thought, been managed to worse advantage. To say that 
the author of "Le Jardin d'Epicure" would have turned 
in his grave if he could have heard Valery's paper would 
be to understate the situation: France's bitterest clerical 
enemies could have wished him no more horrible punish- 
ment than to have had to listen to them in Hell. 

In any case, Valery's advent to the Academy, in sug- 
gesting a contrast between Valery and France, marks even 
more sharply than the divergence between Yeats and 
Bernard Shaw the difference between the new methods 
and attitudes of the typical literature of the period since 
the War and those of the literature of the period which 
the War ended. Anatole France was a popular writer: he 
aimed to be persuasive and intelligible he used frankly 
to remind his secretary, Brousson, that they were "work- 
ing for a bourgeois clientele. That is the only one that 
reads. Do not tear away the veil of the temple. Pluck it 
off a little at a time. Riddle it with sly little holes. . . . 
Leave to your reader the easy victory of seeing further 
than you." His books were sold on all the bookstalls of 
France and known all over the civilized world. Whereas 
Paul Valery disregards altogether the taste and intelli- 
gence of the ordinary reader: instead of allowing his 


reader the easy victory, he takes pride in outstripping him 
completely. And he is read chiefly by other writers or by 
people with a special interest in literature: his poems are 
always out of print and his other writings arc always being 
published in editions so expensive and limited as practi- 
cally never to circulate at all. Anatole France was volumi- 
nous: he supplied his public with a whole literature of ro- 
mance, history, criticism, satire, drama, poetry, philosophy, 
political pamphlets, newspaper articles and speeches. Paul 
Valery publishes little: his whole genius has been concen- 
trated to the production of a few magnificent poems be- 
yond these, he has written almost nothing but a few vol- 
umes of miscellaneous notes. Anatole France was essen- 
tially a rationalist: he did not deny the incongruities and 
incoherences of experience, but he attempted to write 
about them, at least, in a simple, logical and harmonious 
style. Paul Valery has set himself, on the contrary, the task 
of reproducing by his very language all the complexities 
and confusions of our interacting sensations and ideas. 
The phenomena with which France usually deals are the 
events of life as it is lived in the world; with Valery the 
object of interest is the isolated or ideal human mind, 
brooding on its own contradictions or admiring its own 
flights. When France turns away from literature, he oc- 
cupies himself naturally with politics he goes on the 
stump for Dreyfus, allies himself with the Socialist party, 
writes editorials for its paper, addresses meetings of work- 
ing men and finally declares himself a Communist. But 
Valery concerns himself little with politics, and then only 


as a detached intelligence his extra-literary pursuits are 
scientific. And whereas for France, science meant exclu- 
sively a conventional nineteenth-century mechanism, with 
which he had become so deeply imbued that he was 
haunted all his life by nightmares of the dizziness of 
space, the extinction of the sun, the fatally automatic 
character of human loves and ambitions, the reversion of 
mankind to barbarism through a reversal of the evolu- 
tionary process Paul Valery has emerged into an era 
when the scientific point of view no longer implies this 
determinism. (France's attitude toward modern science 
was like his attitude toward Symbolism: when in his old 
age he met Einstein in Berlin and Einstein tried to ex- 
plain to him his theories, France had no patience to listen: 
"When he told me that light was matter, my head began 
to swim and I took my leave.") For the modern scien- 
tific thought which colors Valery's speculations has extri- 
cated itself from the conception of ineluctable laws of na- 
ture, relentless chains of cause and effect. Valery discusses 
in one of his most interesting essays the oppression and 
panic felt by Pascal at his vision a typically seventeenth- 
century vision of the scientific imagination of the silent 
abysses of space. Such imaginings drove a Pascal into 
fanatical piety the equivalent conceptions of two cen- 
turies later drove France to a habit of despair which came 
largely to counteract and invalidate his hopes for human 
society. To Pascal and France alike, man seemed igno- 
minious and insignificant. But Valery can laugh at both: 
he has caught already the first lights of an age in which 



our increasing knowledge of the universe will have come 
to change "not merely our ideas, but certain of our im- 
mediate reactions" and "what one might call 'Pascal's 
reaction' will be a rarity and a curiosity to psychologists." 
Man is no longer to be a tiny exile, pitting himself amidst 
vast space against matter: what he has been thinking of as 
his soul, the exclusive possession of human beings, is some- 
how bound up with that external nature which he has 
been regarding as inanimate or alien, and his mind, which 
has lately seemed as feeble as a spark of phosphorescence 
on a midnight ocean, turns out to have constructed its 
own universe. 

It is particularly illuminating to compare Valery's M. 
Teste with France's most celebrated creation, M. Bergeret 
of the "Histoire Contemporaine." M. Bergeret is a social 
being, polite, agreeable and fond of company: though 
sadly harassed in the community where he lives by many 
elements which he feels to be hostile or undesirable, the 
common interests of that community and of the civiliza- 
tion it represents are what he has chiefly at heart. He is al- 
ways discussing this civilization with his neighbors, and 
when an important political issue arises, he is positive and 
prompt to take sides. But M. Teste is outside society, he has 
almost succeeded in dissociating himself from human re- 
lations altogether: "He neither smiled, nor said good-day 
nor good-bye; and seemed not to hear one's how-do-you- 
do" he goes to bed and goes to sleep in the presence of a 
guest, and his effect on Mme. Teste is to make her feel 
that she is non-existent. He is ill-mannered, self-preoccu- 



pied, austere the modern psychologists would probably 
diagnose him as introverted, narcissistic and manic de- 

And in general it may be said that the strength of Ana- 
tole France's generation was the strength to be derived 
from a wide knowledge of human affairs, a sympathetic 
interest in human beings, direct contact with public opin- 
ion and participation in public life through literature. The 
strength of solitary labor and of earnest introspection is 
the strength of Valery's. 


T HAVE noted the similarity between the English seven- 
** teenth-century poets and the French nineteenth-cen- 
tury Symbolists. The poetry of T. S. Eliot has, in our own 
time, brought together these two traditions, as it is Eliot 
who, so far as I know, has for the first time called atten- 
tion to their resemblance. "The form/* he says, "in which I 
began to write, in 1908 or 1909, was directly drawn from 
the study of Laforgue together with the later Elizabethan 
drama; and I do not know anyone who started from ex- 
actly that point." 

I have so far, in discussing the early Symbolists, spoken 
chiefly of Mallarm. But T. S. Eliot derived, as he indi- 
cates, from a different branch of the Symbolist tradition. 
In 1873 there had appeared in Paris a book of poems 
called "Les Amours Jaunes," by a writer who signed him- 
self Tristan Corbire. "Les Amours Jaunes" was received 
with complete indifference, and scarcely more than a year 
after it appeared, the author died of consumption. Only 
thirty at the time of his death, Tristan Corbiere had been 
an eccentric and very maladjusted man: he was the son of 
a sea captain who had also written sea stories and he had 
had an excellent education, but he chose for himself the 


life of an outlaw. In Paris, he slept all day and spent the 
nights in the cafes or at his verses, greeting at dawn the 
Paris harlots as they emerged from the station house or the 
hotel with the same half-harsh, half-tender fellow-feeling 
for the exile from conventional society which, when he 
was at home in his native Brittany, caused him to flee 
the house of his family and seek the company of the cus- 
toms-men and sailors living skeleton and invalid as he 
was, performing prodigies of courage and endurance in 
the navigation of a little cutter which he sailed by prefer- 
ence in the worst possible weather. He made a pose of his 
unsociability and of what he considered his physical ugli- 
ness, at the same time that he undoubtedly suffered over 
them. Melancholy, with a feverishly active mind, full of 
groanings and vulgar jokes, he used to amuse himself by 
going about in convict's clothes and by firing guns and 
revolvers out the window in protest against the singing of 
the village choir; and on one occasion, on a visit to 
Rome, he appeared in the streets in evening dress, with a 
mitre on his head and two eyes painted on his forehead, 
leading a pig decorated with ribbons. And Corbiere's 
poetry was a poetry of the outcast: often colloquial and 
homely, yet with a rhetoric of fantastic slang; often with 
the manner of slapdash doggerel, yet sure of its own mo- 
rose artistic effects; full of the parade of romantic person- 
ality, yet incessantly humiliating itself with a self -mock- 
ery scurrilous and savage, out of which, as Huysmans said, 
would sometimes rise without warning "a cry of sharp 
pain like the breaking of a 'cello string" Corbiere's verse 



brought back into French poetry qualities which had been 
alien to its spirit since Francois Villon's day. 

So outlandish did Corbire appear even from the point 
of view of the Romantics that he was dismissed, when 
he was noticed at all, as not merely unseemly but insane 
till Paul Verlaine, in 1883, did him honor in a series 
of articles, "Les Poetes Maudits," which was one of the 
important critical events in the development of Symbol- 
ism. Verlaine himself, a more accomplished artist, but a 
less original and interesting personality, had been strongly 
influenced by "Les Amours Jaunes" he seems, indeed, to 
have caught over from Corbiere, not only certain artistic 
effects, but even something of his own poetic personality, 
his peculiar accent of wistful naivete: compare Corbiere's 
"Rondels pour Apres" with Verlaine's sonnet which be- 
gins, "L'espoir luit comme un brin de paille dans 1'etable"; 
or "Paria" with "Casper Hauser." 

But another French poet, Jules Laforgue, nineteen years 
younger than Corbiere, had independently developed a 
tone and technique poignant-ironic, grandiose-slangy, 
scurrilous-naive which had much in common with Cor- 
biere's. Laforgue was the son of a schoolmaster and, for all 
his nonchalance in handling rudely the conventions of 
French poetry, much more a professional man of letters 
than Corbiere. Laforgue even errs through preciosity in 
his fashion; what with Corbiere seems a personal and in- 
evitable, if eccentric, manner of speech, in Laforgue 
sounds self-conscious and deliberate, almost sometimes a 
literary exercise. He was tubercular, as Corbiere was 



and dead at twenty-seven and his gentleness and sadness 
are still those of a sick well-cared-for child; his asperities, 
his surprising images, his coquetries, his cynicism, and his 
impudence, are still those of a clever schoolboy. Laforgue's 
friends procured him a post as reader to the Empress 
Augusta of Germany; and, falling under the spell of Ger- 
man philosophy, he brought its jargon into his verse, con- 
tributing thereby to Symbolism perhaps the one element 
of obscurity which it had lacked. 

Yet Laforgue is a very fine poet and one of the most re- 
markable of the Symbolists. He and Corbiere had intro- 
duced a new variety of vocabulary and a new flexibility of 
feeling. With Mallarme, it may be said that, on the whole, 
it is the imagery, not the feeling, which is variable: though 
sometimes playful, he is classical in the sense (as Yeats and 
Valery are) that he sustains a certain grandeur of tone. 
But it is from the conversational-ironic, rather than from 
the serious-aesthetic, tradition of Symbolism that T. S. 
Eliot derives. Corbiere and Laforgue are almost every- 
where in his early work. The emphatic witty quatrains of 
Corbiere, with their sudden lapses into tenderness or pa- 
thos, are heard again in the satiric verse of Eliot: a poem 
like "Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service" would hardly, 
one imagines, have been written without Corbiere's "Rap- 
sodie Foraine." And as "Conversation Galante" derives 
clearly from certain poems in Laforgue's "Complaintes" 
and "Imitation de Notre-Dame la Lune," so the more 
elaborate "Portrait of a Lady" and "The Love Song of J. 
Alfred Prufrock" follow closely the longer poems of La- 



forgue. Compare the conclusion of "Mr. Prufrock" with 
the conclusion of the early version of Laforguc's poem 

"I grow old ... I grow old . . . 
I shall wear the bottoms o my trousers rolled. 

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach! 

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. 

I do not think that they will sing to me. 

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves 
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back 
When the wind blows the water white and black. 

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea 

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown 

Till human voices wake us, and we drown." 

"Hier 1'orchestre attaqua 
Sa derni&re polka 

Oh! L'automme, I'autommet 

Les casinos 

Qu'on abandonne 
Remisent leurs pianos! . . . 

Phrases, verroteries, 
Caillots de souvenirs. 
Oh! comme ellc cst maigriet 
Quc vais-je dcvenir? . . . 

Adieu! Les fillcs d'ifs dans les grisailles 

Ont 1'air de pleurcuses dc funcraillcs 

Sous 1'autan noir qui veut que tout s'en aillc. 



Asscz, asscz, 
C'cst toi qui as commcnc. 

Va, cc n'est plus 1'odeur de tcs fourrures. 

Va, vos moindres clins d'yeux sont dcs parjures. 

Tais-toi, avcc vous autrcs rien ne durc. 

Tais-toi, tais-toi, 
On n'aimc qu'une fois" . . . 

Here it will be seen that Eliot has reproduced Laforgue's 
irregular metrical scheme almost line for line. Further- 
more, the subject of Laforgue's poem the hesitations and 
constraints of a man either too timid or too disillusioned 
to make love to a woman who provokes his ironic pity at 
the same time that she stirs gusts of stifled emotion has a 
strong resemblance to the subjects of "Mr. Prufrock" and 
the "Portrait of a Lady." And in another poem, "La Figlia 
Che Piange," Eliot has adapted a line of Laforgue's: 
"Simple et sans foi comme un bonjour" "Simple and 
faithless as a smile and shake of the hand." He has even 
brought over into English some of the unstressed effect of 
French verse: how different, for example, is the alexan- 
drine of Eliot's just quoted from the classical English 
alexandrine "which like a wounded snake drags its slow 
length along" or "with sparkless ashes loads an unla- 
mented urn." (In his exhaustive "Influence du Symbo- 
lisme Fran^ais sur la Posie Americaine de 1910 a 1920," 
M. Ren Taupin has shown the influence of Gautier also 
in Eliot's satiric poems: "The Hippopotamus," it appears, 
is almost a transcript of a hippopotamus by Gautier, and 


the "Grishkin is nice* 1 passage in "Whispers of Immor- 
tality" repeats a "Carmen est maigre" of Gautier.) 

It must not be supposed, however, that Eliot is not origi- 
nal or that he is not the equal of either of his masters. 
Those longer and more elaborate poems "Derniers Vers" 
in the collected edition which Laforgue was constructing 
at the time of his death out of more fragmentary and less 
mature work are certainly his most important perform- 
ances: through his masterly flexibility of vocabulary and 
metric, he has here achieved one of the definitive expres- 
sions of the pathetic-ironic, wordly-aesthetic moods of 
the fin dc sfeclc temperament. Yet, though Eliot has, in 
certain obvious respects, applied Laforgue's formula so 
faithfully, he cannot properly be described as an imitator 
because he is in some ways a superior artist. He is more 
mature than Laforgue ever was, and his workmanship is 
perfect in a way that Corbiere's and Laforgue's were 
rarely. T. S. Eliot's peculiar distinction lies, as Clive Bell 
has said, in his "phrasing." Laforgue's images are often 
far-fetched and inappropriately grotesque: his sins in this 
respect are really very closely akin to those of the English 
metaphysical poets; but Eliot's taste is absolutely sure his 
images always precisely right. And the impression that 
Eliot leaves, even in these earliest poems, is clear, vivid and 
unforgettable: we do not subordinate him to his Symbolist 
predecessors any more than, when we find him, as in 
"Gerontion," writing in the rhythms of late Elizabethan 
blank-verse, we associate him with Middleton or Webster. 

When we come to examine Eliot's themes, we recognize 



something which we have found already in Laf orgue, but 
which appears in Eliot in a more intense form. One of the 
principal preoccupations of Flaubert a great hero of 
Eliot's, as of Eliot's fellow-poet, Ezra Pound's had been 
the inferiority of the present to the past: the Romantics 
had discovered the possibilities of the historical imagina- 
tion; with their thirst for boldness, grandeur, and magnifi- 
cence, they had located these qualities in past epochs 
especially the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. And 
Flaubert, who shared with the Romantics this appetite for 
the gorgeous and the untamed, but who constrained him- 
self, also, to confront the actual nineteenth-century world, 
pursued two parallel lines of fiction which lent signifi- 
cance and relief to each other. On the one hand, he re- 
constructed, in "Salammbo" and in "La Tentation de 
Saint-Antoine," the splendid barbarities of the pagan 
world and the heroic piety of the early Christian; and on 
the other, he caricatured, in "Madame Bovary," in "L'Edu- 
cation Sentimentale" and in "Bouvard et Pecuchet," 
the pusillanimity and mediocrity of contemporary bour- 
jjeois France. This whole point of view of Flaubert's 
summed up, as it were, in "Trois Contes," where the three 
periods are contrasted in one book was profoundly to af- 
fect modern literature. We shall find it later on in Joyce; 
but in the meantime we must note its reappearance in the 
poetry of Eliot. Eliot, like Flaubert, feels at every turn that 
human life is now ignoble, sordid or tame, and he is 
haunted and tormented by intimations that it has once 
been otherwise. In "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein 



with a Cigar," the young American tourist in Venice, su- 
perseded in his affair with the Princess Volupinc by a vul- 
gar Austrian Jew, meditates on the clipped wings and 
pared claws of the Lion of St. Mark's, the symbol of the 
old arrogant Venice and of the world where such a city 
was possible. In "A Cooking Egg," the poet demands, af- 
ter a call upon a very mild, dull spinster: "Where are the 
eagles and the trumpets?" and himself returns the sad- 
dened answer: "Buried beneath some snow-deep Alps." In 
"Lune de Miel," the Middle Western American travellers, 
stifled with the summer heat and devoured by the berl- 
bugs of Ravenna, are contrasted with the noble crumbling 
beauty of the old Byzantine church less than a league 
away, of which they are totally unaware and to which 
they have apparently no relation; and in "Mr. Eliot's Sun- 
day Morning Service," the combined grossness and aridity 
of the modern clergymen is contrasted with the pure and 
fresh religious feeling of a picture of the baptism of Christ 
by "a painter of the Umbrian school." In the best and most 
effective of these poems, "Sweeney Among the Nightin- 
gales," the poet, during a drowsy, idiotic and mildly sinis- 
ter scene in some low dive, where two of the girls are sup- 
posed to be plotting against one of the men, remembers, at 
the sound of nightingales singing, the murder of Aga- 
memnon in ^Eschylus: 

"The host with someone indistinct 
Converses at the door apart, 
The nightingales are singing near 
The Convent of the Sacred Heart, 



And sang within the bloody wood 
When Agamemnon cried aloud, 
And let their liquid siftings fall 
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud/' 

The present is more timid than the past: the bourgeois 
are afraid to let themselves go. The French had been pre- 
occupied with this idea ever since the first days of Ro- 
manticism; but Eliot was to deal with the theme from a 
somewhat different point of view, a point of view charac- 
teristically American. For T. S. Eliot, though born in St. 
Louis, comes from a New England family and was edu- 
cated at Harvard ; and he is in some ways a typical product 
of our New England civilization. He is distinguished by 
that combination of practical prudence with moral ideal- 
ism which shows itself in its later developments as an ex- 
cessive fastidiousness and scrupulousness. One of the prin- 
cipal subjects of Eliot's poetry is really that regret at situa- 
tions unexplored, that dark rankling of passions inhibited, 
which has figured so conspicuously in the work of the 
American writers of New England and New York from 
Hawthorne to Edith Wharton. T. S. Eliot, in this respect, 
has much in common with Henry James. Mr. Prufrock 
and the poet of the "Portrait of a Lady," with their help- 
less consciousness of having dared too little, correspond 
exactly to the middle-aged heroes of "The Ambassadors" 
and "The Beast in the Jungle," realizing sadly too late in 
life that they have been living too cautiously and too 
poorly. The fear of life, in Henry James, is closely bound 
up with the fear of vulgarity. And Eliot, too, fears vul- 



garity which he embodies in the symbolic figure of 
"Apeneck Sweeney" at the same time that he is fasci- 
nated by it. Yet he chafes at the limitations and pretenses 
of the culture represented by Boston a society "quite un 
civilized," as he says, "but refined beyond the point of civi- 
lization." He has some amusing satiric poems about old 
New England ladies in one of which he reflects on his 
way to the house of his Cousin Harriet, how 

". . . evening quickens faintly in the street, 
Wakening the appetites of life in some 

And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript." 

And the "Portrait of a Lady," whether the scene be laid 
in Boston or in London, is essentially a poem of that New 
England society "refined beyond the point of civiliza- 
tion": from the Lady, who serves tea among lighted can- 
dles "an atmosphere of Juliet's tomb" with her damp- 
ening efforts at flattery and flirtation through the medium 
of cultured conversation her slightly stale and faded 
gush about Chopin and her memories of Paris in the 
spring the poet is seized with an impulse to flee: 

"I take my hat: how can I make a cowardly amends 
For what she has said to me? 
You will see me any morning in the park 
Reading the comics and the sporting page. 
Particularly I remark 

An English countess goes upon the stage, 
A Greek was murdered at a Polish dance, 
Another bank defaulter has confessed. 
I keep my countenance, 



I remain self-possessed 

Except when a street piano, mechanical and tired, 

Reiterates some worn-out common song 

With the smell of hyacinths across the garden 

Recalling things that other people have desired." 

But he is always debating things with his conscience: his 
incurable moral solicitude makes him wonder: 

"Arc these ideas right or wrong?" 

So Mr. Prufrock in the room where 

". . . women come and go 
Talking of Michelangelo," 

wistfully asks himself: 

"Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets 
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes 
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?" . . . 

And Mr. Prufrock wonders also whether he should not 
put a question to his lady but he never gets to the point of 
putting it. 


But Eliot's most complete expression of this thcmcjajE 
cmotjoBQal_starvation is to be found in the later and longer 
poem called "Tl^^ste^Land" (1922). The Waste Land 
of the poem is a symbol borrowed from the myth of the 
Holy Grail: it is a desolate and sterile country ruled by an 
impotent king, in which not only have the crops ceased to 



grow and the animals to reproduce, but the very human 
inhabitants have become incapable of having children. 
But this sterility we soon identify as the sterility of the 
Puritan temperament. 0n the first pages we find again the 
theme of the girl with the hyacinths (themselves a symbol 
for the rearisen god of the fertility rites who will save the 
rainless country from drouth) which has already figured 
in "La Figlia Che Piange" and "Dans le Restaurant" a 
memory which apparently represents for the poet some 
fulfillment foregone in youth and now agonizingly de- 
sired; and in the last pages it is repeated. We recognize 
throughout "The Waste Land" the peculiar conflicts of 
the Puritan turned artist: the horror of vulgarity and the 
shy sympathy with the common life, the ascetic shrinking 
from sexual experience and the distress at the drying up of 
the springs of sexual emotion, with the straining after a 
religious emotion which may be made to take its place. 

Yet though Eliot's spiritual and intellectual roots are 
still more firmly fixed in New England than is, I believe, 
ordinarily understood, there is in "The Waste Land" a 
good deal more than the mere gloomy moods of a New 
Englander regretting an emotionally undernourished 
youth. The colonization by the Puritans of New England 
was merely an incident in that rise of the middle class 
which has brought a commercial-industrial civilization to 
the European cities as well as to the American ones. T. S. 
Eliot now lives in London and has become an English citi- 
zen; but the desolation, the aesthetic and spiritual drouth, 
of Anglo-Saxon middle-class society oppresses London as 



well as Boston^nc terrible dreariness of the great modern 
cities is the atmosphere in ^'hiqj^^lTllc Waste Land" takes 
place amidst this dreariness, bn^^tivid images emerge, 
brief pure moments of feeling anrclistilled; but all about 
us we are aware of nameless millions performing barren 
office routines, wearing down their souL in interminable 
labors of which the products never bring them profit- 
people whose pleasures are so sordid and so feeble that 
they seem almost sadder than their pains. And this Waste 
Land has another aspect: it is a place not merely of desola- 
tion, but of anarchy and doubt. In our post-War world of 
shattered institutions, strained nerves and bankrupt ideals, 
life no longer seems serious or coherent we have no be- 
lief in the thiags we do and consequently we have no heart 
for them^ ^ 

Jftht poet of "The Waste Land" is living half the time in 
the real world of contemporary London and half the time 
in the haunted wilderness of the mediaeval legend. The 
water for which he longs in the twilight desert of his 
dream is to quench the spiritual thirst which torments 
him in the London dusk; and as Gerontion, "an old man 
in a dry month," thought of the young men who had 
fought in the rain, as Prufrock fancied riding the waves 
with mermaids and lingering in the chambers of the sea, 
as Mr. Apollinax has been imagined drawing strength 
from the deep sea-caves of coral islands so the poet of 
"The Waste Land," making water the symbol of all free- 
dom, all fecundity and flowering of the soul, invokes in 
desperate need the memory of an April shower of his 



youth, the song of the hermit thrush with its sound of wa- 
ter dripping and the vision of a drowned Phoenician sailor, 
sunk beyond "the cry of gulls and the deep sea swell," 
who has at least died by water, not thirst. The poet, who 
seems now to be travelling in a country cracked by drouth, 
can only feverishly dream of these things. One's head may 
be well stored with literature, but the heroic prelude of the 
Elizabethans has ironic echoes in modern London streets 
and modern London drawing-rooms: lines remembered 
from Shakespeare turn to jazz or refer themselves to the 
sound of phonographs. And now it is one's personal re- 
grets again the girl in the hyacinth-garden "the awful 
daring of a moment's surrender which an age of prudence 
can never retract" the key which turned once, and once 
only, in the prison of inhibition and isolation. Now he 
stands on the arid plain again, and the dry-rotted world 
of London seems to be crumbling about him the poem 
ends in a medley of quotations from a medley of litera- 
tures like Gerard de Nerval's "Desdichado," the poet i? 
disinherited; like the author of the "Pervigilium Veneris," 
he laments that his song is mute and asks when the spring 
will come which will set it free like the swallow's; like 
Arnaut Daniel, in Dante, as he disappears in the refining 
fire, he begs the world to raise a prayer for his torment, 
"These fragments I have shored against my ruins." ) 

"The Waste Land," in method as well as in mood, has 
left Laforgue far behind. Eliot has developed a new tech- 
nique, at once laconic, quick, and precise, for representing 
the transmutations of thought, the interplay of perception 



and reflection. Dealing with subjects complex in the same 
way as those of Yeats's poem "Among School-Children" 
and Val&y's "Cimetiere Marin," Eliot has found for them 
a different language. As May Sinclair has said of Eliot, his 
"trick of cutting his corners and his curves makes him 
seem obscure when he is clear as daylight. His thoughts 
move very rapidly and by astounding cuts. They move not 
by logical stages and majestic roundings of the full literary 
curve, but as live thoughts move in live brains." Let us 
examine, as an illustration, the lovely nightingale passage 
from "The Waste Land." Eliot is describing a room in 

"Above the antique mantel was displayed 
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene 
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king 
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale 
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice 
And still she cried, and still the world pursues, 
'Jug Jug* to dirty ears." 

That is, the poet sees, above the mantel, a picture of Philo- 
mela changed to a nightingale, and it gives his mind a mo- 
ment's swift release. The picture is like a window opening 
upon Milton's earthly paradise the "sylvan scene," as 
Eliot explains in a note, is a phrase from "Paradise Lost" 
and the poet associates his own plight in the modern 
city, in which some "infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering 
thing," to quote one of Eliot's earlier poems, is somehow 
being done to death, with Philomela, raped and mutilated 
by Tereus. But in the earthly paradise, there had been a 
nightingale singing: Philomela had wept her woes in 



song, though the barbarous king had cut out her tongue 
her sweet voice had remained inviolable. And with a 
sudden change of tense, the poet flashes back from the 
myth to his present situation: 

"And still she cried, and still the world pursues, 
'Jug Jug* to dirty cars." 

The song of birds was represented in old English popular 
poetry by such outlandish syllables as "Jug Jug" so 
Philomela's cry sounds to the vulgar. Eliot has here, in 
seven lines of extraordinary liquidity and beauty, fused the 
picture, the passage from Milton and the legend from 
Ovid, into a single moment of vague poignant longing. 

"The Waste Land" is dedicated to Ezra Pound, tu 
whom Eliot elsewhere acknowledges a debt; and he has 
here evidently been influenced by Pound's "Cantos." "The 
Waste Land," like the "Cantos," is fragmentary in form 
and packed with literary quotation and allusion. In fact, 
the passage just discussed above has a resemblance to a 
passage on the same subject the Philomela-Procne myth 
at the beginning of Pound's Fourth Canto. Eliot and 
Pound have, in fact, founded a school of poetry which de- 
pends on literary quotation and reference to an unprece- 
dented degree. Jules Laforgue had sometimes parodied, jn 
his poems, the great lines of other poets 

"O Nature, donnc-moi la force ct le courage 
De me croire en Sge" . . . 

And Eliot had, in his early poetry, introduced phrases 



from Shakespeare and Blake for purposes of ironic effect 
He has always, furthermore, been addicted to prefacing 
his poems with quotations and echoing passages from 
other poets. But now, in "The Waste Land," he carries this 
tendency to what one must suppose its extreme possible 
limit: here, in a poem of only four hundred and three 
lines (to which are added, however, seven pages of notes), 
he manages to include quotations from, allusions to, or 
imitations of, at least thirty-five different writers (some of 
them, such as Shakespeare and Dante, laid under contri- 
bution several times) as well as several popular songs; 
and to introduce passages in six foreign languages, includ- 
ing Sanskrit. And we must also take into consideration 
that the idea of the literary medley itself seems to have 
been borrowed from still another writer, Pound. We are 
always being dismayed, in our general reading, to discover 
that lines among those which we had believed to represent 
Eliot's residuum of original invention had been taken 
over or adapted from other writers (sometimes very un- 
expected ones: thus, it appears now, from Eliot's essay on 
Bishop Andrewes, that the first five lines of "The Journey 
of the Magi," as well as the "word within a word, unable 
to speak a word" of "Gerontion," had been salvaged from 
Andrewes's sermons; and the "stiff dishonoured shroud" 
of "Sweeney Among the Nightingales" seems to be an 
echo of the "dim dishonoured brow" of Whittier's poem 
about Daniel Webster). One would be inclined a priori to 
assume that all this load of erudition and literature would 
be enough to sink any writer, and that such a production 



as "The Waste Land" must be a work of second-hand in- 
spiration. And it is true that, in reading Eliot and Potmd, 
we are sometimes visited by uneasy recollections of Au- 
sonius, in the fourth century, composing Greek-and-Latin 
macaronics and piecing together poetic mosaics out of 
verses from Virgil. Yet Eliot manages to be most effective 
precisely in "The Waste Land" where he might be ex- 
pected to be least original he succeeds in conveying his 
meaning, in communicating his emotion, in spite of all his 
learned or mysterious allusions, and whether we under- 
stand them or not. 

In this respect, there is a curious contrast between Eliot 
and Ezra Pound Pound's work has been partially sunk by 
its cargo of erudition, whereas Eliot, in ten years' time, has 
left upon English poetry a mark more unmistakable than 
that of any other poet writing English. It is, in fact, proba- 
bly true at the present time that Eliot is being praised too 
extravagantly and Pound, though he has deeply influ- 
enced a few, on the whole unfairly neglected. I should ex- 
plain Eliot's greater popularity by the fact that, for all his 
fragmentary method, he possesses a complete literary per- 
sonality in a way that Pound, for all his integrity, does not. 
Ezra Pound, fine poet though he is, does not dominate us 
like a master imagination he rather delights us like a 
miscellaneous collection of admirably chosen works of art. 
It is true that Pound, in spite of his inveterate translating, 
is a man of genuine originality but his heterogeneous 
shorter poems, and the heterogeneous passages which go 
to make his longer ones, never seem to come together in a 



whole as his general prose writing gives scrappy expres- 
sion to a variety of ideas, a variety of enthusiasms and 
prejudices, some ridiculous and some valid, some learned 
and some half-baked, which, though valuable to his gen- 
eration as polemic, as propaganda and as illuminating 
casual criticism, do not establish and develop a distinct 
reasoned point of view as Eliot's prose-writings do. T. S. 
Eliot has thought persistently and coherently about the re- 
lations between the different phases of human experience, 
and his passion for proportion and order is reflected in his 
poems. He is, in his way, a complete man, and if it is true, 
as I believe, that he has accomplished what he has credited 
Ezra Pound with accomplishing if he has brought a new 
personal rhythm into the language so that he has been 
able to lend even to the borrowed rhythms, the quoted 
words, of his great predecessors a new music and a new 
meaning it is this intellectual completeness and sound- 
ness which has given his rhythm its special prestige. 

Another factor which has probably contributed to Eliot's 
extraordinary success is the essentially dramatic character 
of his imagination. We may be puzzled by his continual 
preoccupation with the possibilities of a modern poetic 
drama that is to say, of modern drama in verse. Why, we 
wonder, should he worry about drama in verse why, af- 
ter Ibsen, Hauptmann, Shaw and Chekov, should he be 
dissatisfied with plays in prose ? We may put it down to an 
academic assumption that English drama ended when the 
blank verse of the Elizabethans ran into the sands, until it 
occurs to us that Eliot himself is really a dramatic poet. 



Mr. Prufrock and Sweeney are characters as none of the 
personages of Pound, Valery or Yeats is they have be- 
come a part of our modern mythology. And most of the 
best of Eliot's poems are based on unexpected dramatic 
contrasts: "The Waste Land" especially, I am sure, owes a 
large part of its power to its dramatic quality, which 
makes it peculiarly effective read aloud. Eliot has even 
tried his hand at writing a play, and the two episodes from 
"Wanna Go Home, Baby" which he has published in The 
Criterion seem rather promising. They are written in a 
sort of jazz dramatic metre which suggests certain scenes 
of John Howard Lawson's "Processional"; and there can 
be no question that the future of drama in verse, if it has 
any future, lies in some such direction. "We cannot re- 
instate," Eliot has written, "either blank verse or the heroic 
couplet. The next form of drama will have to be a verse 
drama, but in new verse forms. Perhaps the conditions of 
modern life (think how large a part is now played in our 
sensory life by the internal combustion engine!) have 
altered our perception of rhythms. At any rate, the recog- 
nized forms of speech-verse are not as efficient as they 
should be; probably a new form will be devised out of 
colloquial speech." 

In any case, that first handful of Eliot's poems, brought 
out in the middle of the War (1917) and generally read, if 
at all, at the time, as some sort of modern vcrs dc socictt, 
was soon found, as Wyndham Lewis has said, to have had 
the effect of a little musk that scents up a whole room. 
And as for "The Waste Land," it enchanted and devas- 


tatcd a whole generation. Attempts have been made to re- 
produce it by Aldington, Nancy Cunard, etc. at least a 
dozen times. And as Eliot, lately out of Harvard, assumed 
the role of the middle-aged Prufrock and to-day, at forty, 
in one of his latest poems, "The Song of Simeon/' speaks 
in the character of an old man "with eighty years and no 
to-morrow" so "Gerontion" and "The Waste Land" have 
made the young poets old before their time. In London, as 
in New York, and in the universities both here and in 
England, they for a time took to inhabiting exclusively 
barren beaches, cactus-grown deserts, and dusty attics over- 
run with rats the only properties they allowed them- 
selves to work with were a few fragments of old shattered 
glass or a sparse sprinkling of broken bones. They had 
purged themselves of Masefield as of Shelley for dry 
tongues and rheumatic joints. The dry breath of the 
Waste Land now blighted the most amiable country land- 
scapes; and the sound of jazz, which had formerly seemed 
jolly, now inspired only horror and despair. But in this 
case, we may forgive the young for growing prematurely 
decrepit: where some of even the finest intelligences of the 
elder generation read "The Waste Land" with blankness 
or laughter, the young had recognized a poet. 

As a critic, Eliot occupies to-day a position of distinction 
and influence equal in importance to his position as a poet. 
His writings have been comparatively brief and rare he 


has published only four small books of criticism yet he 
has probably affected literary opinion, during the period 
since the War, more profoundly than any other critic writ- 
ing English. Eliot's prose style has a kind of felicity differ- 
ent from that of his poetic style; it is almost primly precise 
and sober, yet with a sort of sensitive charm in its austerity 
closely reasoned and making its points with the fewest 
possible words, yet always even, effortless and lucid. In a 
reaction against the impressionistic criticism which flour- 
ished at the end of the century and which has survived 
into our own time the sort of criticism which, in dealing 
with poetry, attempts to reproduce its effect by having re- 
course to poetic prose T. S. Eliot has undertaken a kind 
of scientific study of aesthetic values: avoiding impression- 
istic rhetoric and a priori aesthetic theories alike, he com- 
pares works of literature coolly and tries to distinguish be- 
tween different orders of artistic effects and the different 
degrees of satisfaction to be derived from them. 

And by this method, Eliot has done more than perhaps 
any other modern critic to effect a revaluation of English 
literature. We sometimes follow his literary criticism with 
the same sort of eagerness and excitement with which we 
follow a philosophical inquiry. Professor Saintsbury has 
played in literature much the same sort of role that he has 
played as a connoisseur of wines, that of an agreeable and 
entertaining guide of excellent taste and enormous experi- 
ence; Edmund Gosse, often intelligent and courageous in 
dealing with French or Scandinavian writers, could never 
quite, when it came to English literature, bring himself to 



drop his official character of Librarian of the House of 
Lords his attitude was always a little that of the Beef 
Eater in the Tower of London, who assumes the transcen- 
dent value of the Crown Jewels which he has been set to 
guard and does not presume to form a personal opinion 
as to their taste or their respective merits; and the moral 
passion of Paul Elmer More has ended by paralyzing his 
aesthetic appreciation. But T. S. Eliot, with an infinitely 
sensitive apparatus for aesthetic appreciation, approaching 
English literature as an American, with an American's 
peculiar combination of avidity and detachment and with 
more than the ordinary English critic's reading in the lit- 
eratures, ancient and modern, of the Continent, has been 
able to succeed as few writers have done in the excessively 
delicate task of estimating English, Irish and American 
writers in relation to one another, and writers in English 
in relation to writers on the Continent. The extent of 
Eliot's influence is amazing: these short essays, sent out 
without publicity as mere scattered notes on literature, 
yet sped with so intense a seriousness and weighted with 
so wide a learning, have not only had the effect of dis- 
crediting the academic cliches of the text-books, but are 
even by way of establishing in the minds of the genera- 
tion now in college a new set of literary cliches. With the 
ascendancy of T. S. Eliot, the Elizabethan dramatists have 
come back into fashion, and the nineteenth-century poets 
gone out. Milton's poetic reputation has sunk, and Dry- 
den's and Pope's have risen. It is as much as one's life is 
worth nowadays, among young people, to say an approv- 



ing word for Shelley or a dubious one about Donne. And 
as for the enthusiasm for Dante to paraphrase the man in 
Hemingway's novel, there's been nothing like it since the 

Eliot's role as a literary critic has been very similar to 
Val6ry's in France: indeed, the ideas of the two men and 
their ways of stating them have corresponded so closely 
that one guesses they must influence each other a good 
deal. Like Valery, Eliot believes that a work of art is not 
an oraculatr outpouring, but an object which has been con- 
structed deliberately with the aim of producing a certain 
effect. He has brought back to English criticism some- 
thing of that trenchant rationalism which he admires in 
the eighteenth century, but with a much more catholic 
appreciation of different styles and points of view than 
the eighteenth century allowed. The Romantics, of course, 
fare badly before this criticism. Vague sentiment vaguely 
expressed, rhetorical effusion disguising bad art these 
Eliot's laconic scorn has nipped. For him, Byron is "a dis- 
orderly mind, and an uninteresting one": Keats and 
Shelley "not nearly such great poets as they are sup- 
posed to be"; whereas the powers of Dryden are "wider, 
but no greater than those of Milton." Just as Valery lately 
protested in a lecture that he was unable to understand the 
well known lines of Alfred de Musset: 

"Les plus ctesespcr^s sont les chants les plus beaux, 
Et j'en sais d'immortcls qui sont de purs sanglots." 

so Eliot, in an essay on Crashaw, has confessed, with a cer- 



tain superciliousness, his inability to understand the fol- 
lowing stanza from Shelley's "Skylark": 

"Keen as are the arrows 
Of that silver sphere 
Whose intense lamp narrows 

In the white dawn clear, 
Until we hardly see, who feel that it is there." 

'Tor the first time, perhaps/' says Eliot, "in verse of such 
eminence, sound exists without sense." 

It will be seen that Eliot differs from Valery in believing 
that poetry should make "sense." And he elsewhere, in 
his essay on Dante in "The Sacred Wood," remonstrates 
with Valery for asserting that philosophy has no place 
in poetry. Yet Eliot's point of view, though more intelli- 
gently reasoned and expressed, comes down finally to the 
same sort of thing as Valery's and seems to me open to 
the sam sort of objection. Eliot's conclusion in respect to 
the relation of philosophy to poetry is that, though phi- 
losophy has its place in poetry, it is only as something 
which we "see" among the other things with which the 
poet presents us, a set of ideas which penetrate his world, 
as in the case of the "Divina Commedia": in the case of 
such a poet as Lucretius, the philosophy sometimes seems 
antagonistic to the poetry only because it happens to be a 
philosophy "not rich enough in feeling . . . incapable of 
complete expansion into pure vision." Furthermore, "the 
original form of philosophy cannot be poetic": the poet 
must use a philosophy already invented by somebody else. 
Now, though we may admire the justice of Eliot's judg- 



ments on the various degrees of artistic success achieved by 
Dante, Lucretius and others, it becomes plainer and 
plainer, as time goes on, that the real effect of Eliot's, as 
of Valery's, literary criticism, is to impose upon us a con- 
ception of poetry as some sort of pure and rare aesthetic 
essence with no relation to any of the practical human 
uses for which, for some reason never explained, only 
the technique of prose is appropriate, f 

Now this point of view, as I have already suggested in 
writing about Paul Valery, seems to me absolutely unhis- 
torical an impossible attempt to make aesthetic values 
independent of all the other values. Who will agree with 
Eliot, for example, that a poet cannot be an original 
thinker and that it is not possible for a poet to be a com- 
pletely successful artist and yet persuade us to accept his 
ideas at the same time? There is a good deal in Dante's 
morality which he never got out of the Scholastics, as, 
for all we know, there may be a good deal in Lucretius 
which he never got out of Epicurus. When we read Lucre- 
tius and Dante, we are affected by them just as we are by 
prose writers of eloquence and imagination we are com- 
pelled to take their opinions seriously. And as soon as we 
admit that prose writing may be considered on the same 
basis with verse, it becomes evident that we cannot, in 
the case of Plato, discriminate so finely as to the capacity 
of his philosophy for being "expanded into pure vision'* 
that we are able to put our finger on the point where the 
novelist or poet stops and the scientist or metaphysician 
begins; nor, with Blake any more than with Nietzsche 



and Emerson, distinguish the poet from the aphorist The 
truth is, of course, that, in Lucretius 1 time, verse was used 
for all sorts of didactic purposes for which we no longer 
consider it appropriate they had agricultural poems, as- 
tronomical poems, poems of literary criticism. How can 
the "Georgics," the "Ars Poetica" and Manilius be dealt 
with from the point of view of the capacity of their mate- 
rial for being "expanded into pure vision"? To modern 
readers, the subjects of the "Georgics" bee-keeping, stock- 
raising, and so forth seem unsuitable and sometimes an- 
noying in verse; yet for Virgil's contemporaries, the poem 
must have been completely successful as, indeed, granted 
the subject, it is. Nor does it follow that, because we are 
coming to use poetry for fewer and fewer literary pur- 
poses, our critical taste is becoming more and more re- 
fined, so that we are beginning to perceive for the first 
time the true, pure and exalted function of poetry: that is, 
simply, as Valery says, to produce a "state" as Eliot says, 
to afford a "superior amusement." It is much more likely 
that for some reason or other, verse as a technique of lit- 
erary expression is being abandoned by humanity alto- 
gether perhaps because it is a more primitive, and hence 
a more barbarous technique than prose. Is it possible to 
believe, for example, that Eliot's hope of having verse 
reinstated on the stage even verse of the new kind which 
he proposes is likely ever to be realized ? 

The tendency to keep verse isolated from prose and to 
confine it to certain highly specialized functions dates in 
English at least from the time of Coleridge, when, in 

1 20 


spite of the long narrative poems which were fashionable, 
verse was already beginning to fall into disuse. Coleridge 
defined a poem as "that species of composition which is 
opposed to works of science by proposing for its immedi- 
ate object pleasure, not truth; and from all other species 
(having this object in common with it), it is discriminated 
by proposing to itself such delight from the whole, as is 
compatible with a distinct gratification from each compo- 
nent part." Poe, who had doubtless read Coleridge on the 
subject, wrote thirty years later that there was no such 
thing as a long poem, that "no very long poem would 
ever be popular again," etc. Eliot and Valery follow Cole- 
ridge and Poe in their theory as well as in their verse, and 
they seem to me to confuse certain questions by talking as 
if the whole of literature existed simultaneously in a 
vacuum, as if Homer's and Shakespeare's situations had 
been the same as Mallarm^s and Laforgue's, as if the lat- 
ter had been attempting to play the same sort of r61es as 
the former and could be judged on the same basis. It is in- 
evitable, of course, that we should try to arrive at absolute 
values through the comparison of the work of different 
periods I have just praised Eliot for his success at this 
but it seems to me that in this particular matter a good 
many difficulties would be cleared up if certain literary 
discussions could be removed from the artificially re- 
stricted field of verse in which it is assumed that nothing 
is possible or desirable but a quintessential distillation called 
"poetry," and that that distillation has nothing in com- 
mon with anything possible to obtain through prose to 



the field of literature in general. Has not such a great 
modern novel as "Madame Bovary," for example, at least 
as much in common with Virgil and Dante as with Balzac 
and Dickens ? Is it not comparable from the point of view 
of intensity, music and perfection of the parts, with the 
best verse of any period ? And we shall consider Joyce in 
this connection later. 

With all gratitude, therefore, for the salutary effect of 
Eliot's earlier criticism in curbing the carelessness and 
gush of the aftermath of Romanticism, it seems plain that 
the anti-Romantic reaction is leading finally into pedantry 
and into a futile aestheticism. "Poetry," Eliot wrote in 
"The Sacred Wood," "is not a turning loose of emotion, 
but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of 
personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, 
only those who have personality and emotion know what 
it means to want to escape from them." This was valid, 
and even noble, in 1920 when "The Sacred Wood" was 
published; but to-day, after ten years of depersonalized 
and over-intellectualized verse, so much of it written in 
imitation of Eliot, the same sort of thing in the mouths of 
Eliot's disciples sounds like an excuse for not possessing 
emotion and personality. 

Yet, in spite of the weaknesses of Eliot's position as he 
has sometimes been driven to state it dogmatically, he has 
himself largely succeeded in escaping the vices which it 
seems to encourage. The old nineteenth century criticism 
of Ruskin, Renan, Taine, Sainte-Beuve, was closely allied 
to history and novel writing, and was also the vehicle for 



all sorts of ideas about the purpose and destiny of human 
life in general. The criticism of our own day examines lit- 
erature, art, ideas and specimens of human society in the 
past with a detached scientific interest or a detached aes- 
thetic appreciation which seems in either case to lead no- 
where. A critic like Herbert Read makes dull discrimina- 
tions between different kinds of literature; a critic like 
Albert Thibaudet discovers dull resemblances between 
the ideas of philosophers and poets; a critic like I. A. 
Richards writes about poetry from the point of view of 
a scientist studying the psychological reactions of readers; 
and such a critic as Clive Bell writes about painting so 
exclusively and cloyingly from the point of view of the 
varying degrees of pleasure to be derived from the pic- 
tures of different painters that we would willingly have 
Ruskin and all his sermonizing back. And even Virginia 
Woolf and Lytton Strachey have this in common with 
Clive Bell that they seem to feel they have done enough 
when they have distinguished the kind of pleasure to be 
derived from one kind of book, the kind of interest to be 
felt in one kind of personality, from the kind to be found 
in another. One is supposed to have read everything and 
enjoyed everything and to understand exactly the reasons 
for one's enjoyment, but not to enjoy anything excessively 
nor to raise an issue of one kind of thing against another. 
Each of the essays of Strachey or Mrs. Woolf, so compact 
yet so beautifully rounded out, is completely self-contained 
and does not lead to anything beyond itself; and finally, 
for all their brilliance, we begin to find them tiresome. 



Now there is a good deal in T. S. Eliot of this pedantry 
and sterility of his age. He is very much given, for exam- 
ple, to becoming involved in literary Houses-that-Jack- 
Built: "We find this quality occasionally in Wordsworth/ 1 
he will write, "but it is a quality which Wordsworth 
shares with Shenstone rather than with Collins and Gray. 
And for the right sort of enjoyment of Shenstone, we 
must read his prose as well as his verse. The 'Essays on 
Men and Manners' are in the tradition of the great French 
aphorists of the seventeenth century, and should be read 
with the full sense of their relation to Vauvenargues, La 
Rochefoucauld and (with his wider range) La Bruyere. 
We shall do well to read enough of Theophrastus to un- 
derstand the kind of effect at which La Bruyere aimed. 
(Professor Somebody-or-other's book on Theophrastus 
and the Peripatetics' gives us the clew to the intellectual 
atmosphere in which Theophrastus wrote and enables 
us to gauge the influences on his work very different 
from each other of Plato and Aristotle.)" At this rate 
(though I have parodied Eliot), we should have to read 
the whole of literature in order to appreciate a single book, 
and Eliot fails to supply us with a reason why we should 
go to the trouble of doing so. Yet against the background 
of the criticism of his time, Eliot has stood out unmis- 
takably as a man passionately interested in literature. The 
real intensity of his enthusiasm makes us forget the prim- 
ness of his tone; and his occasional dogmatism is redeemed 
by his ability to sec beyond his own ideas, his willingness 
to admit the relative character of his conclusions. 




But if Eliot, in spite of the meagreness of his production, 
has become for his generation a leader, it is also because 
his career has been a progress, because he has evidently 
been on his way somewhere, when many of his contempo- 
raries, more prolific and equally gifted, have been fixed in 
their hedonism or despair. The poet of "The Waste Land" 
was too serious to continue with the same complacence as 
some of his contemporaries inhabiting that godforsaken 
desert. It was certain he would not stick at that point, and 
one watched him to see what he would do. 

This destination has now, however, become plain. In 
the preface to the new 1928 edition of "The Sacred 
Wood," poetry is still regarded as a "superior amuse- 
ment," but Eliot reports on his part "an expansion or de- 
velopment of interests." Poetry is now perceived to have 
"something to do with morals, and with religion, and 
even with politics perhaps, though we cannot say what." 
In "For Lancelot Andrewes," published in the same year, 
Eliot declares himself a classicist in literature, an Anglo- 
Catholic in religion and a royalist in politics, and an- 
nounces that he has in preparation "three small books" 
treating of these subjects and to be called respectively "The 
School of Donne," "The Principles of Modern Heresy," 
and "The Outline of Royalism." There follows a slender 
selection of essays, which hint quietly at what may be 

We must await the further exposition of Eliot's new 



body of doctrine before it will be possible to discuss it 
properly. In the meantime, we can only applaud his desire 
to formulate a consistent central position, at the same time 
that we may regret the unpromising character of the ideals 
and institutions which he invokes. One cannot but recog- 
nize in Eliot's recent writings a kind of reactionary point 
of view which had already been becoming fashionable 
among certain sorts of literary people a point of view 
which has much in common with that of the neo-Thom- 
ists in France and that of the Humanists in America. "Un- 
less by civilization," writes Eliot, "you mean material 
progress, cleanliness, etc. ... if you mean a spiritual co- 
ordination on a high level, then it is doubtful whether 
civilization can endure without religion, and religion 
without a church." Yet you can hardly have an effective 
church without a cult of Christ as the son of God; and 
you cannot have such a cult without more willingness to 
accept the supernatural than most of us to-day are able 
to muster. We feel in contemporary writers like Eliot a 
desire to believe in religious revelation, a belief that it 
would be a good thing to believe, rather than a genuine 
belief. The faith of the modern convert seems to burn 
only with a low blue flame. "Our literature," Eliot has 
himself recently made a character in a dialogue say, "is a 
substitute for religion, and so is our religion." From such a 
faith, uninspired by hope, unequipped with zeal or force, 
what guidance for the future can we expect ? 

One cannot, however, doubt the reality of the experi- 
ence to which Eliot testifies in his recent writings though 



it seems to us less an Anglo-Catholic conversion than a 
reawakening of the New Englander's conscience, of the 
never quite exorcised conviction of the ineradicable sin- 
fulness of man. Eliot admires Machiavelli because Machia- 
velli assumes the baseness of human nature as an unalter- 
able fact; and he looks for light to the theologians who 
offer salvation, not through economic readjustment, po- 
litical reform, education or biological and psychological 
study, but solely through "grace." Eliot apparently to-day 
regards "Evil" as some sort of ultimate reality, which it is 
impossible either to correct or to analyze. His moral prin- 
ciples seem to me stronger and more authentic than his 
religious mysticism and his relation to the Anglo-Catho- 
lic Church appears largely artificial. The English seven- 
teenth century divines whose poetry and sermons he ad- 
mires so much, upon whom he seems so much to depend 
for nourishment, exist in a richer, a more mysterious, a 
more heavily saturated atmosphere, in which even monu- 
mental outlines are blurred; Eliot himself is stiff er and 
cooler, more intent, more relentless, more clear. He has his 
own sort of graciousness, but he seems, as the phrase is, 
a little thin-lipped. His religious tradition has reached him 
by way of Boston. 

In any case, Eliot's new phase of piety has brought with 
it a new humility. He apologizes in his 1928 preface for 
the "assumption of pontifical solemnity'* which he now 
detects in "The Sacred Wood," and his recent little book 
on Dante (a most admirable introduction) not merely 
surprises but almost embarrasses us by the modesty with 



which Eliot professes to desire nothing but to be of use 
to beginners and to tell us of a few of the beautiful things 
which he has found in the great poet. I will not say that 
this humility has enfeebled his poetry. The three devout 
little poems which he has published as Christmas cards 
since "The Hollow Men" announced the nadir of the phase 
of sterility and despair given such effective expression 
in "The Waste Land/' seem comparatively uninspired; 
but the long poem or group of poems, "Ash-Wednesday" 
(1930), which follows a scheme somewhat similar to that: 
of "The Waste Land," is a not unworthy successor to it. 
The poet begins with the confession of his bankruptcy: 

"Because I do not hope to turn again 
Because I do not hope 
Because I do not hope to turn 
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope 
I no longer strive to strive towards such things 
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?) 
Why should I mourn 
The vanished power of the usual reign? . . . 

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly 

But merely vans to beat the air 

The air which is now thoroughly small and dry 

Smaller and dryer than the will 

Teach us to care and not to care 

Teach us to sit still. 

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death 
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death." 

There follow passages in which the prayer is apparently 
answered: the poet's contrition and pious resignation are 



rewarded by a series of visions which first console then 
lighten his heart. We find an imagery new for Eliot, a 
symbolism semi-ecclesiastical and not without a Pre-Raph- 
aelite flavor: white leopards, a Lady gowned in white, 
junipers and yews, "The Rose" and "The Garden," and 
jewelled unicorns drawing a gilded hearse: these are 
varied by an interlude which returns to the imagery and 
mood of "The Waste Land," and a swirling churning 
anguished passage which suggests certain things of Ger- 
trude Stein's. At last the themes of the first section recur? 
the impotent wings of the aged eagle seem to revive, as, 

"From the wide window toward the granite shore 
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying 
Unbroken wings. 

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices 
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices 
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel 
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell 
Quickens to recover 

The cry of quail and the whirling plover 
And the blind eye creates 
The empty forms between the ivory gates 
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth . . .* 

The broken prayer, at once childlike and mystically sub- 
tle, with which the poem ends seems to imply that the 
poet has come closer to the strength and revelation he 
craves: grace is about to descend. 

"Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the 

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood 



Teach us to care and not to care 

Teach us to sit still 

Even among these rocks, 

Our peace in His will 

And even among these rocks 

Sister, mother 

And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, 

Suffer me not to be separated 

And let my cry come unto Thee." 

The literary and conventional imagery upon which 
" Ash-Wednesday" so largely relies and which is less vivid 
because more artificial than that of Eliot's earlier poems, 
seems to me a definite feature of inferiority; the "devil of 
the stairs" and the "shape twisted on the banister," which 
are in Eliot's familiar and unmistakable personal vein, 
somehow come off better than the jewelled unicorn, which 
incongruously suggests Yeats. And I am made a little tired 
at hearing Eliot, only in his early forties, present him- 
self as an "aged eagle" who asks why he should make 
the effort to stretch his wings. Yet "Ash- Wednesday," 
though less brilliant and intense than Eliot at his very best, 
is distinguished by most of the qualities which made his 
other poems remarkable: the exquisite phrasing in which 
we feel that every word is in its place and that there is not 
a word too much; the metrical mastery which catches so 
naturally, yet with so true a modulation, the faltering 
accents of the supplicant, blending the cadences of the 
liturgy with those of perplexed brooding thought; and, 
above all, that "peculiar honesty" in "exhibiting the essen- 



tial sickness or strength of the human soul" of which 
Eliot has written in connection with Blake and which, in 
his own case, even at the moment when his psychological 
plight seems most depressing and his ways of rescuing 
himself from it least sympathetic, still gives him a place 
among those upon whose words we reflect with most 
: nterest and whose tones we remember longest* 


MARCEL PROUST is the first important noveiisr to 
apply the principles of Symbolism in fiction, froust 
had assimilated a great variety of writers from Ruskin to 
Dostoevsky, and he had acquired a remarkable technical 
virtuosity; but, born in 1871, he had been young in the 
eighties and nineties, when Symbolism was in the air, and 
the peculiar methods and form of his great novel cer- 
tainly owed much to Symbolist theory. I have said that 
the influence on the Symbolists of Wagner was as con- 
siderable as that of any writer of books, and it is signifi- 
cant of Proust's conception of his art that he should have 
been in the habit of speaking of his "themes." His enor- 
mous novel, "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu," is, in 
fact, a symphonic structure rather than a narrative in the 
ordinary sense. The shifting images of the Symbolist poet, 
with their "multiplied associations," are here characters, 
situations, places, vivid moments, obsessive emotions, re- 
current patterns of behavior. 

The book begins with an overture: we must note and 
remember the opening chords. "Longtemps, je me suis 
coucht de bonne heure" is the first sentence of "A la 
Recherche du Temps Perdu," and it is followed by a 
second sentence in which the word "temps" is twice heard. 
We are in the vague world of sleep: the narrator, shut 


away in his darkened room, has lost all sense of external 
reality, all consciousness even of the room itself. He fancies 
himself in other places where, in the course of his life, he 
has slept: a child at his grandfather's in the country; a 
visitor in a country house; at a seaside hotel in summer; 
in winter in a military town where the young French- 
men serve their term in barracks; in the midst of Paris; 
in Venice. "Ah, I've fallen asleep at last, even though 
Mother never came to say good-night!" This is the first 
theme to be developed: we find ourselves in the grand- 
father's house. M. Swann is coming to dinner, and the 
boy's father sends him to bed without his mother's good- 
night kiss. The child is sensitive and nervous: he cannot 
sleep till he has seen his mother. He sends her a note by 
the maid, but she refuses to answer it. The child is in an- 
guish. He lies awake for hours, till he hears the door- 
bell ring and knows that M. Swann has left. Then he goes 
out into the hallway and throws himself upon his mother, 
as she is coming up to bed. She is angry at first: she and 
his grandmother, who are already aware of his tendency 
toward morbid sensibility, have adopted with him a policy 
of firmness. But the father takes pity on him and induces 
the mother to go in and comfort him. She reads him 
to sleep with a novel of George Sand's and spends the 
night in his room. 

Thereafter we are introduced to a variety of personages 
associated with Combray, the small provincial town where 
the boy's grandfather lives: a hypochondriac aunt who 
refuses to stir from her bed; a provincial snob who longs 



to know the great people of the countryside, the Guer- 
mantes; an unhappy old music teacher, whom every- 
body pities because his daughter has disgraced him. M. 
Swann has married beneath him and comes with his wife 
and daughter to stay at his estate outside the town. The 
memories of boyhood are suddenly dropped and Proust 
tells us at length about Swann's marriage: though rich 
and in smart society, he has fallen in love, rather late in 
life, with a stupid cocottc who has begun by driving him 
mad with jealousy. When "Du Cote de chez Swann" first 
appeared, even those who recognized its genius were 
worried by its apparent lack of direction. To-day, we can 
admire the ingenuity with which Proust, in these first 
pages of his book, has succeeded in introducing nearly 
every important character. And not merely every strand 
of his plot, but also every philosophic theme. We are able 
here to note already one feature which all his characters 
have in common. All alike are suffering from some form 
of unsatisfied longing or disappointed hope: all are sick 
with some form of the ideal. Legrandin wants to know 
the Guermantes; Vinteuil is wounded in his love for his 
daughter; Swann, associating the beauty of Odette with 
that of the women of Botticelli, ridiculously and tragically 
identifies his passion for her with his neglected aesthetic 
interests. At the end of the history of Swann, we are back 
in the narrator's boyhood: he has himself conceived a ro- 
mantic admiration for the beautiful Mme. Swann and he 
makes a practice of waiting to see her pass in one of the 
alleys of the Bois de Boulogne. This very November, he 


concludes it is the end of the first movement of the sym- 
phony he has happened to walk again in the Bois: the 
trees were brilliant with autumn; he describes the cold 
beauty of the day; but it is entirely a different beauty from 
the beauty which intoxicated him in youth. "The reality 
which I had known existed now no longer. Because Mme. 
Swann did not arrive at the same time as when I was 
young and looking as she had looked when I used to see 
her, the Avenue seemed quite different. The places which 
we have known do not belong to the world of space, 
where we locate them for convenience. They were only a 
narrow slice among the other contiguous impressions 
which made up our life of that time: the memory of a 
certain image is only the regret of a certain instant; and 
the houses, the roads and the avenues are fugitive, alas! 
like the years." 

Proust had at one time had the idea of dividing his 
novel into three parts and calling them respectively: "The 
A of Names," "The Age of Words" and "The Age of 
Things." We are now in the Age of Names: we see every- 
thinglove, art and the great through the imagination 
of boyhood. "A I'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur" is, 
as it were, one long adolescent revery. It contains only 
one conspicuous episode. The boy makes the acquaintance 
of Swann's daughter, a little girl with whom he goes to 
play in the afternoons in the Champs-Elyses, and falls 
desperately in love with her. But the hysterical over-eager- 
ness, the undisciplined need to lean excessively on other 
people, of the spoiled child that he has become, now that 



his parents have already begun to treat him like an in- 
valid who must be humored and indulged, end by exas- 
perating the little girl and making her indifferent to him. 
She snubs him one day, and he is still able to muster 
enough strength of will to satisfy his wounded pride by 
breaking off with her: he betrays his weakness, how- 
ever, by carrying his policy to the extreme of refusing 
ever to see her again. 

As I have said, we have been submerged through these 
volumes and for most tastes, have been submerged far 
too long in the reveries of adolescence. But people who 
have stuck in the "Jeunes Filles en Fleur" and thus know 
only the subjective Proust must acquire a false idea of 
what his genius is like. We are now to be violently 
thrown forward into the life of the world outside. The con- 
trast between, on the one hand, the dreams, the broodings 
and the repinings of the neurasthenic hero, as we get them 
for such long stretches, and, on the other, the rich and 
lively social scenes, dramatized by so powerful an im ;*i- 
nation, is one of the most curious features of the book. 
These latter scenes, indeed, contain so much broad hu- 
mor and so much extravagant satire that, appearing in a 
modern French novel, they amaze us. Proust, however, 
was much addicted to English literature: "It is strange," 
he writes in a letter, "that, in the most widely different 
departments, from George Eliot to Hardy, from Steven- 
son to Emerson, there should be no other literature which 
exercises over me so powerful an influence as English and 
American." In the descriptive parts of the early volumes, 


we have recognized the rhythms of Ruskin; and in 
social scenes which now engage us, though Proust has 
been compared to Henry James, who was deficient in 
precisely those gifts of vividness and humor which Proust, 
to such an astonishing degree, possessed, we shall look in 
vain for anything like them outside the novels of Dickens. 
We have already been struck, in "Du Cote de chez 
Swann," with the singular relief into which the charac- 
ters were thrown as soon as they began to speak or act. 
And it seems plain that Proust must have read Dickens 
and that this sometimes grotesque heightening of char- 
acter had been partly learned from him. Proust, like 
Dickens, was a remarkable mimic: as Dickens enchanted 
his audiences by dramatic readings from his novels, so, 
we are told, Proust was celebrated for impersonations of 
his friends; and both, in their books, carried the practice 
of caricaturing habits of speech and of inventing things 
for their personages to say which are outrageous without 
ever ceasing to be lifelike to a point where it becomes im- 
possible to compare them to anybody but each other. As, 
furthermore, it has been said of Dickens that his villains 
are so amusing in their fashion, so enthusiastically alive 
that we are reluctant to see the last of them, so we acquire 
a curious affection for even the most objectionable charac- 
ters in Proust: Morel, for example, is certainly one of the 
most odious characters in fiction, yet we are never really 
made to hate him or to wish that we did not have to hear 
about him, and we feel a genuine regret when Mme. Vcr- 
durin, with her false teeth and her monocle, finally van* 



ishcs from our sight. This generous sympathy and under- 
standing for even the monstrosities which humanity pro- 
duces, and Proust's capacity for galvanizing these mon- 
strosities into energetic life, are at the bottom of the ex- 
traordinary success of the tragi-comic hero of Proust's 
Sodom, M. de Charlus. But Charlus surpasses Dickens 
and, as has been said, is almost comparable to Falstaff . In 
a letter in which Proust explains that he has borrowed cer- 
tain traits of Charlus from a real person, he adds that the 
character in the book is, however, intended to be "much 
bigger," to "contain much more of humanity"; and it is 
one of the strange paradoxes of Proust's genius that he 
should have been able to create in a character so special 
a figure of heroic proportions. 

Nor is it only in these respects that Proust reminds us 
of Dickens. Proust's incidents, as well as his characters, 
sometimes have a comic violence almost unprecedented 
in French: Mme. Verdurin dislocating her jaw through 
laughing at one of Cottard's jokes, the furious smashing 
by the narrator of Charlus's hat and the latter 's calm 
substitution of another hat in its place, are strokes which 
no one but Dickens would have dared. This heightening 
in Dickens is theatrical; and we sometimes though con- 
siderably less often get the same impression in Proust 
that we are watching a look or a gesture deliberately un- 
derlined on the stage so that Charlus's first encounter 
with the narrator, when the former looks at his watch and 
makes "the gesture of annoyance with which one aims to 
create the impression that one is tired of waiting, but 


which one never makes when one is actually waiting/ 1 
and Bloch's farewell to Mme. de Villeparisis, when she 
attempts to snub him by closing her eyes, seem to take 
place in the same world as Lady Dedlock's swift second 
glance at the legal papers in her lover's handwriting and 
Mr. Merdle's profound stare into his hat "as if it were 
some twenty feet deep," when he has come to borrow 
the penknife with which he -is to open his veins. And 
there even seems distinguishable in the Verdurin circle 
an unconscious reminiscence of the Veneerings of "Our 
Mutual Friend": note especially the similarity between 
the roles played by Twemlow in the latter and in the 
former by Saniette. 

To return, however, the structure of the novel begins at 
this point to appear. Proust has made of these social epi- 
sodes (often several hundred pages long) enormous solid 
blocks, cemented by, or rather embedded in, a dense medi- 
um of introspective revery and commentary mingled with 
incidents treated dramatically on a smaller scale. Proust's 
handling of these complex social scenes is masterly: it is 
only in the intermediate sections that we feel he has 
blurred his effects by allowing the outline of the action to 
become obscured by the profusion of the hero's reflec- 
tions on it. We also become aware that these main scenes 
follow a regular progression. In the early "flashback" to 
the story of Swann's marriage which has been described 
above, we have already assisted at two social scenes on 
something less than the full scale. First of all, Swann has 
gone to dinner at the Verdurins', at whose house he first 



knows Odette: the Verdurins are outside society alto- 
gether and pretend to think smart people "tiresome." 
They are self-assertive and ill-bred bourgeois, who, how- 
ever, have a furious appetite for entertaining and patron- 
izing artists, and other persons whom they consider clever. 
Later on, we see Swann at an evening party given by a 
Mme. de Saint-Euverte: a few smart people go to Mme. de 
Saint-Euverte's, but they do so with a clear consciousness 
of being kind to her. In the part of the book at which we 
have now arrived, the part which is predominantly social, 
the narrator first attends an afternoon reception at the 
house of Mme. de Villeparisis, an aunt of the Guermantes, 
who, though still on good terms with her family, has 
none the less become rather dcla$s6e by reason of a scan- 
dalous past, but who is a rung above Mme. de Saint- 
Euverte, as Mme. de Saint-Euverte is a rung above Mme. 
Verdurin; then, a dinner at the house of the Duchesse de 
Guermantes, who, though one of the smartest hostesses in 
Paris, occupies not quite the most exalted rank; and finally 
an evening reception held by the Prince and Princesse de 
Guermantes, representatives of German royal families and 
not merely of the purest blood, but of the most inviolable 
correctitude and dignity. In the latter part of the book, 
we shall assist at three more of these scenes: in the first 
two, we return to the Verdurins, into whose salon the peo- 
ple from the upper strata have now, for one reason or 
another the bourgeoisie is absorbing the old nobility 
begun to filter down; and in the last, which occurs in the 
last chapter, we return to the top again, a matinee at the 



Prince dc Gucrmantes's, where we encounter, not only 
Legrandin and the Saint-Euvertes, but also Odette and 
Morel, the son of the narrator's uncle's valet, and where 
the new Princesse de Guermantes turns out to be none 
other than Mme. Verdurin, whom the Prince, ruined by 
the defeat of Germany, has married for her money. 

In the meantime, to return again to the section we have 
been discussing ("Le Cote de Guermantes" and the first 
part of "Sodomc et Gomorrhe"), which is principally con- 
cerned with the "world" and with worldly people, we 
here begin also to understand for the first time the au- 
thor's moral attitude. We find that each of these three 
major social episodes follows more or less the same for- 
mula and points the same moral. The first, the narrator's 
debut at Mme. de Villeparisis's, is contrasted immediately 
with the death of the grandmother, which serves entirely 
to discredit the values of the snobs with whom the hero 
has been consorting. The grandmother, who has been ill 
for some time, takes the boy for a walk in the Champs- 
Elysees and goes to the public toilet. During her absence, 
the boy overhears the woman who tends the toilet talking 
to the keeper of the grounds: "I choose my clients," she 
explains, "I don't receive everybody in what I call my 
salons!" The grandmother returns: she too has overheard 
the conversation: "It sounded exactly like the Guermantes 
and the Verdurins," she says, as they walk away; and she 
quotes, as is her habit, from Mme. de Sevign. But she 
keeps her head turned in order to conceal from the boy 
that she has just had a paralytic stroke* In a flash, by mak- 



ing us feel in this scene the goodness and pathos of the 
grandmother, for whom any sort of meanness or malice, 
for whom any wordliness or snobbery, is impossible, 
Proust has swept down the whole web of social relations 
which he has just been at such pains to spin. The next 
episode, the dinner at the Duchesse de Guermantes's, is 
followed by Swann's going to call on the Due and Du- 
chesse just as they are leaving for a costume ball. Swann, 
with one of those lapses of taste which we have been told 
are characteristic of him, clumsily discloses the fact that 
he has just been warned by the doctors that he is dying. 
But the Guermantes are made to behave with cruelty as 
well as tactlessness, for they are so much preoccupied with 
getting to the ball, they take their social activities so much 
more seriously than anything else, that they cannot even 
attempt to think of anything human to say to a man who 
is an old friend of both and whom the Duchesse, at least, 
admires. In the third episode, Swann appears at the recep- 
tion of the Prince de Guermantes during the bitterest 
period of the Dreyfus case: Swann is a Jew and has sided 
with the Dreyfusards; and he is not so well received as 
formerly. The Prince takes him aside, and the guests 
murmur that he has been asked to leave. But so far from 
this having been the case, we learn at the end of the eve- 
ning, the Prince, whom Proust, with his masterly skill at 
what the conjurors call "false direction/' has allowed us to 
suppose not only stiff but stupid, is, with his aristocratic 
sense of responsibility and his Teutonic seriousness of 
mind, the only person present who has tried to form a just 



opinion: he has come to the conclusion that Dreyfus is 
probably innocent and has merely wanted to discuss it 
with Swann. (In the latter part of the novel, this formula 
is twice repeated: first, when the narrator dines with the 
Verdurins in the country and, returning to his hotel, hears 
the elevator-boy tell with pride how his sister, who is kept 
by a rich man, excrementally exhibits her scorn of the ser- 
vant class from which she has risen; and finally when, in 
the midst of the second reception at the Princesse de Guer- 
mantes's where the Princess is now the former Mme. 
Verdurin we are shown the daughter and son-in-law of 
the great tragic actress "La Berma," who has shortened 
her life by returning to the stage in order to finance their 
social career, deserting their mother in her illness to go to 
the Guermantes's matinee, to which they have not even 
been asked.) 

In each of these cases, Proust has destroyed, and de- 
stroyed with ferocity, the social hierarchy he has just been 
expounding. Its values, he tells us, are an imposture: pre- 
tending to honor and distinction, it accepts all that is vul- 
gar and base; its pride is nothing nobler than the instinct 
which it shares with the woman who keeps the toilet and 
the elevator boy's sister, to spit upon the person whom we 
happen to have at a disadvantage. And whatever the social 
world may say to the contrary, it either ignores or seeks to 
kill those few impulses toward justice and beauty which 
make men admirable. It seems strange that so many critics 
should have found Proust's novel "unmoral"; the truth is 
that he was preoccupied with morality to the extent of 



tending to deal in melodrama. Proust was himself (on his 
mother's side) half -Jewish; and for all his Parisian sophis- 
tication, there remains in him much of the capacity for 
apocalyptic moral indignation of the classical Jewish 
prophet. That tone of lamentation and complaint which 
resounds through his whole book, which, indeed, he 
scarcely ever drops save for the animated humor of the so- 
cial scenes, themselves in their implications so bitter, is 
really very un-French and rather akin to Jewish literature. 
The French novelist of the line of Stendhal and Flaubert 
and Anatole France, with whom otherwise Proust has so 
much in common, differs fundamentally from Proust in 
this: the sad or cynical view of mankind with which these 
former begin, which is implicit in their first page, has been 
arrived at by Proust only at the cost of much pain and 
protest, and this ordeal is one of the subjects of his book: 
Proust has never, like these others, been reconciled to dis- 
illusionment. This fact is clearly one of the causes of that 
method which we find so novel and so fascinating of mak- 
ing his characters undergo a succession of transformations: 
humanity is only gradually revealed to us in its selfishness, 
its weakness and its inconsistency. Anatole France would 
probably, for example, have put before us the whole of 
Odette de Crecy in a single brief description a few facts 
exactly noted and two adjectives which, contradicting each 
other, would have pricked us with the contradiction of 
her stupidity and her beauty; Stendhal would have 
stripped her of romance in the first sentence in which he 
recorded the simplest of her acts. But with Proust, we are 



made to sec her in a variety of different aspects through 
the eyes of the men who have adored her; and her medi- 
ocrity and moral insensibility, to Proust such a tragic mat- 
ter, are never fully allowed to appear until the final pages 
of the novel, when for the first time we hear her express 
herself on her experience with her various lovers. 

In that part of the book which we are discussing, we 
have fully emerged from the Age of Names and are well 
advanced with the Age of Things, that is, of realities; and 
we begin to understand why Proust finds these realities so 
inacceptable, as we become aware of the standards by 
which he judges them. These standards are supplied, on 
the one hand, by such artists as Bergotte, the novelist, and 
Vinteuil, the composer; but on the other hand, by Swann 
and by the narrator's mother and grandmother. I do not 
doubt that both of these latter were drawn, as Swann ad- 
mittedly is, from Jewish originals; and it is plain that a 
certain Jewish family piety, intensity of idealism and im- 
placable moral severity, which never left Proust's habits 
of self-indulgence and his worldly morality at peace, were 
among the fundamental elements of his nature. The world 
is different from Combray, not merely because Combray 
is provincial, but because the world is the world and 
occupied with the things of the world. It is really not 
Combray itself, but the example of his mother and grand- 
mother, with their kindness, their spiritual nobility, their 
rigid moral principles and their utter self-abnegation, 
from which Proust's narrator sets out on his ill-fated ad- 
ventures among men. 



In the section which I have just been discussing, we 
have been shown the life of the worldlings and we have 
seen that it was vanity. Now we shall be shown the world 
of lovers and we shall find it an inferno. First, however, 
we may pause a moment to examine the architecture of 
the structure of which we now stand in the middle; and 
we find to our surprise that Proust, in spite of his apparent 
looseness, carelessness and prolixity, has both chosen his 
materials with economy and built with them monumen- 
tally. He is really careless and loose only in matters of 
detail; and his framework will bear the weight of all his 
longueurs and digressions. His running conversational 
tone has been made to serve as a device for covering up 
the calculated ingenuities of his drama and for rendering 
its sudden peripeties and its moments of passionate elo- 
quence more effective because more unexpected. I have 
spoken of the regular progression of the social scenes: one 
can see now how consistently Proust has striven in a 
variety of other ways for close unity and significant order. 
Half the characters in the story are Guermantes; and al- 
most all the rest are people whom the hero has known as 
a child at Combray (as the Guermantes, in a sense, also 
are). The Due and Duchesse de Guermantes, Mme. de 
Villeparisis and Charlus's Jupien all live in the same build- 
ing in Paris as the family of the hero himself. All the 
themes have been stated in the first volumes; and all the 
pieces are now before us. No new elements will be intro- 
duced: Proust has provided himself with the elements 
and with those elements alone which are needed 



what he calls his "demonstration." We have now become 
aware that the characters of "A la Recherche du Temps 
Perdu" all illustrate general principles and that they have 
been carefully selected by Proust to cover the whole of the 
world that he knows: Odette is all that is stupid in woman 
which, at the same time, arouses men's passions and en- 
chants their dreams; Charlus, the struggle in one soul be- 
tween the masculine and feminine, and beyond that, the 
cruel paradox of a fine mind and a sensitive nature at the 
mercy of instincts which humiliate them; Mme. de Guer- 
mantes, the best that a snob can hope to be without be- 
coming a serious person, etc., etc. These colossal figures, 
without losing individuality we hear the very sound of 
their voices take on universal significance. 

For it is only the presentation, and not the development, 
of Proust's characters which is discontinuous. They are 
designed, in Proust's own language, to illustrate certain 
laws; and though they appear to us in a succession of 
different aspects, as they are seen at different times and 
different places and by different observers, their behavior, 
their personalities, have a compelling logic, Proust's 
method of presenting them, however, so as to show only 
one aspect at a time is one of his great technical discover- 
ies, and we must stop a moment to illustrate it. The more 
important characters in Proast are made to pass through 
so many phases that it would be impossible to trace briefly 
their histories. But we may note the transformations of one 
of the subordinate characters. 

When we first meet Mme. de Villeparisis, it is at the 



seaside summer resort, Balbec: the narrator's grandmother 
has known her during their schooldays, but, with her 
characteristic modesty and good taste, taking it for granted 
that Mme. de Villeparisis belongs to a superior social 
class, has never since attempted to see her. Mme. de Ville- 
parisis, however, recognizes her old school friend at Bal- 
bec and insists upon entertaining her. The old marquise 
takes the grandson out driving, and she seems to him the 
perfect type of great lady; she enchants him with anec- 
dotes of the famous people who had been friends of hei 
father's and whom as a child she had used to see at 
their house. When the boy has returned to Paris, however, 
she invites him to one of her receptions, and he learns now 
that her social position is by no means so brilliant as he 
had supposed: for some reason, she has lost caste; many 
people will not come to her house. She is also a sort of blue- 
stocking: she paints and publishes memoirs, and has there- 
by ceased to be typical of her class. She is envious, some- 
times mean, a little stuffy and a little pathetic. But the 
young man never ceases to wonder what dreadful sin 
Mme. de Villeparisis can be guilty of to have warranted 
such ostracisim: he cannot imagine anything disgraceful 
enough, anything which such a woman might have done 
which such women did not do every day with impunity. 
He makes an attempt to find out from her nephew, Char- 
lus, but only discovers that, so far as Charlus is concerned, 
Mme. de Villeparisis is not dt classic at all: she is simpl) 
his aunt and a Guermantes, and the opinion of the out- 
side world has never penetrated to him. He explains tc 



the young man, however, that the late M. de Villeparisis 
was a nobody, with no title of his own, and that they had 
merely invented "de Villeparisis" in order that she might 
still have one. But years afterwards, at Venice, the narra- 
tor sees Mme. de Villeparisis in the dining-room of the 
hotel where he is stopping, and he overhears her conver- 
sation at table with the old diplomat, M. de Norpois, who 
has been her lover for years. It is one of those banal and 
laconic exchanges between persons who have lived long 
together and who have nothing new to say to each other: 
they discuss their shopping, the stock market, the menu. 
Mme. de Villeparisis is disfigured by some sort of eczema 
which has broken out on her face: she seems tired and 
old. When an Italian prince comes over to their table, M. 
de Norpois watches her relentlessly with a severe blue 
eye to see that she does not commit any of the slips 
which, when they had both been younger, had amused 
him. An ordinary novelist would have left it at this. 
But with Proust, the point of the story is still to come 
in a final transformation which is retrospective. When the 
narrator leaves the dining-room and rejoins his mother 
outside, he finds also a Mme. Sazerat, an old, excellent 
and rather boring neighbor from Combray. Mme. Sazerat, 
ever since they have known her, has been living in very 
reduced circumstances. When the narrator happens to 
mention that Mme. de Villeparisis is in the dining-room, 
Mme. Sazerat begs him to point her out: it was for her 
sake, Mme. Sazerat explains, that her father had ruined 
himself: "Now that father is dead," she adds, "my consola* 



tion is that he loved the most beautiful woman of his 
time." The hero takes her into the dining-room and tries 
to show her Mme. de Villeparisis but, "We can't be 
counting from the same place," Mme. Sazerat objects. 
"As I count, there's nobody at the second table but an old 
gentleman and a dreadful blowzy little hunched-up old 
woman." We realize with astonishment that what the 
young man had never been able to imagine was simply 
that Mme. de Villeparisis had once been beautiful, un- 
scrupulous and cruel, had wasted lives and broken hearts, 
like Odette de Crecy herself. Proust's skill at producing 
these effects is one of the most amazing features of his 
art: as each successive revelation is made, we see perfectly 
that the previous descriptions of the character fit equally 
well our new conception, yet we have never foreseen the 
surprise. Behind the varied series of aspects, we are aware 
of the personality as a complete and unmistakable crea- 
tion: the series, as Proust says, describes its curve. 

To return, however, to the story where we left it, we 
now enter the inferno of the passions, of which we have 
previously only had glimpses. The hero's love affair with 
Albertine, which is balanced* near the beginning, by his 
childhood infatuation with Swann's daughter, is the cul- 
minating, and the most enormously elaborated, episode of 
the book. The narrator falls in love with a girl in almost 
every way the opposite of himself: she is lively, sensual, 
piquant. She is an orphan and has no money and is 
obliged to live with an aunt, who dislikes her and whom 
she dislikes. The aunt is a dull bourgeois, but there is 



about Albertinc a good deal of the Parisian gamine* While 
his mother is away at Combray, the hero brings Albertine 
to stay in the family apartment, where, for the time, he is 
living alone. There commences between him and Alber- 
tine one of those fatal emotional see-saws which seem first 
to have been described by Stendhal in the love affair be- 
tween Julien Sorel and Mathilde de la Mole. So long as 
Proust's hero is sure of Albertine, he finds himself indif- 
ferent to her and decides that he will not marry her; but 
as soon as he suspects her of infidelity, he becomes mor- 
bidly obsessed by jealousy. In the meantime, he has grown 
more self-indulgent, more lazy, more egoistic and more 
hypochondriacal. He lies in bed till noon every day and 
will not take Albertine out: he keeps her like a prisoner. 
He leans too hard upon her, just as he leaned too hard 
upon Gilberte, but with consequences far more serious, 
because he has by this time lost the self-control which 
might have enabled him to break off the relationship, as 
he had done in the former case. He becomes at last so 
exigent and so nagging that, after a jealous scene one eve- 
ning, Albertine runs away the next morning before he has 
gotten up. During the night, he has heard her, in her 
room, violently throwing open a window opening the 
windows at night was forbidden, because the air was sup- 
posed to be bad for his asthma as who should say: "This 
life is smothering me! Asthma or no asthma, I must have 
air!" And he has been shaken by an agitation more pro- 
found than any he has known since that other night in his 
childhood when M. Swarni had come to dinner and his 


mother had failed to kiss him good-night; and as he had 
done on that former occasion, he goes out into the hall 
and stands waiting, hoping in vain to attract Alber- 
tine's attention. 

In the morning, he finds a letter which says: "I leave 
you the best of myself." She goes back to her aunt in the 
country; and only then does it occur to her lover that she 
is, after all, a jcunc fille a marier and that he has taken 
advantage of her situation to put her in an impossible 
position. He makes frantic efforts to get her back; then 
suddenly receives the news that she has fallen from her 
horse and been killed. Immediately afterwards, a letter 
arrives which she has written just before her death and in 
which she tells him she wants to come back to him. He 
has suspected her of Lesbian propensities, and this is one 
of the things which has tortured him; but he is never now 
to know certainly how much of what he has suspected is 
the product of his imagination and how much is true. 
Some evidence, after she is dead, leads him to believe that 
she is innocent; other reports, that she was even more 
depraved than he had ever imagined, that she had finally 
come to believe herself suffering from a form of "criminal 
insanity" and that her accident had been more or less 
deliberate she had allowed herself to be killed out of 
remorse for a suicide she had caused. In either event, he 
feels that he is to blame: if she was innocent, he has 
wronged her; if she was guilty, he has abandoned her to 
the perversity which she herself dreaded: "It seemed to 
me that, by reason of the fact that my love had been al- 



together selfish, I had allowed Albertinc to die, just as I 
had killed my grandmother." In any case, this harrowing 
failure undermines his own morale. At last, he completely 
collapses and takes refuge in a sanitarium, where he 
remains for a number of years. 

This episode with Albertine, upon which Proust put so 
much labor and which he intended for the climax of his 
book, has not been one of the most popular sections, and it 
is certainly one of the most trying to read. Albertine is 
seen in so many varying moods, made the subject of so 
many ideas, dissociated into so many different images, 
and her lover describes at such unconscionable length the 
writhings of his own sensibility, that we sometimes feel 
ourselves going under in the gray horizonless ocean of 
analysis and lose sight of the basic situation, of Proust's 
unwavering objective grasp of the characters of both the 
lovers which make the catastrophe inevitable. Further- 
more, the episode of Albertine does not supply us with 
any of the things which we ordinarily expect from love 
affairs in novels: it is quite without tenderness, glamour 
or romance the relation between Albertine and her lover 
seems to involve neither idealism nor enjoyment. But this 
is also its peculiar strength: it is one of the most original 
studies of love in fiction and, in spite of the rather highly 
special conditions under which it is made to take place, 
we recognize in it an inescapable truth. And it ends by 
moving us in a curious way, precisely when Proust seems 
indifferently to have neglected all the customary apparatus 
for getting effects of pathos out of themes of love and 



death. The tragedy of Albertine is the tragedy of the little 
we know and the little we are able to care about those per- 
sons whom we know best and for whom we care most; 
and the pages which tell how Albertine's lover forgot her 
after she was dead, by reason of their very departure from 
any other treatment of death that we remember in fic- 
tion, give us that impression of a bolder honesty, of a 
closer approach to reality, which we get only from deep 
and original genius. As in the case of Paul Valery's "Cime- 
tiere Marin" so characteristic of our own time and such 
a curious contrast to Gray's "Country Churchyard" it 
is less the nostalgia for perished beauty and the pathos of 
wasted passions that move us than amazement at their 

This brings us, however, to Proust's central ideas, of 
which this episode is only the chief exemplification. We 
have already been shown the failure of Swann to satisfy 
with Odette his unrealized aesthetic longings. So the nar- 
rator's friend, Saint-Loup, has made himself miserable 
over a shifty little actress whom the hero has formerly 
known in a brothel, but who wears the aspect for Saint- 
Loup of all the talents and all the charms. And so the 
narrator has now proved for himself the fatal impossi- 
bility of finding our happiness in another individual. A 
woman will not, and cannot, live in the world in which 
we would have her that is, the world in which we live, 
which we ourselves imagine; and what we love in her is 
merely the creation of our own imagination: we have sup- 
plied her with it ourselves. This tragic subjectivity of love is 



even more striking in the case of the sexual inverts (Proust 
supplements the normal love affairs of Swann and of the 
narrator with, as it were, homosexual annexes, consisting 
on the one hand, of Charlus and his friends, and, on the 
other, of Albertine and her Lesbian companions); for 
here, to the eyes of an ordinary person, there is nothing 
romantic to be seen at all, and the grotesque disparity 
between the ideal which is exalting or tormenting the 
lover and the object in which he has located it becomes 
ludicrous or disgusting. In the case of a wholly noble and 
disinterested love, a devotion in which sex plays no part, 
such as the grandmother's love for the boy, the discrep- 
ancy is perhaps most hopeless of all: for the boy simply 
takes for granted all the grandmother's solicitude and at- 
tention, is too self-centred to be aware of her sufferings 
and scarcely thinks about her at all till after she is dead. 
And by one of his most brilliant strokes, Proust shows us 
finally that the raucous Mme. Verdurin has been a victim 
of the same malady as the rest: her fierce despotism over 
her "little clan," her frenzied efforts to keep them to- 
gether, her nagging them to come to her house and her 
persecuting them when they stay away, have been merely 
the symptoms of another variety of the same passion 
which has been torturing Swann, the narrator and Char- 
lus: jealousy but in this case transferred from an in- 
dividual to a group. Nor are the lovers the only persons 
who are baffled by fixing their hopes upon other human 
beings, by seeking to extend their own private reality to 
the external world. Lcgrandin, the provincial snob, lives 



to abandon his snobbery; when he comes to be invited 
everywhere, he no longer cares to go out. And, in a grue- 
some final episode, Proust shows us the whole futile come- 
dy enacted in an unexpected form: Charlus, who has been 
steadily degenerating, has finally arrived at a phase where 
all his more human impulses have decayed and he has be- 
come perverse for the sake of perversity: vice itself has be- 
come the ideal. But his efforts to degrade himself are as 
ill-fated as the grandmother's efforts to sacrifice herself to 
the welfare of others: for the persons he pays to collaborate 
with him care nothing about being vicious: they only 
want to earn an honest penny and their heart is hope- 
lessly not in their work. Even in pursuing evil, where 
satisfaction depends on others, man is doomed to dis- 

Nor does Proust's pursuit of this theme stop here. The 
conviction that it is impossible to know, impossible to 
master, the external world, permeates his whole book. It 
is reiterated on almost every page, in a thousand different 
connections: Albertine's lies; the gossip about the heir- 
apparent of Luxemburg; the contradictory diagnoses of 
the doctors who are consulted about the grandmother's 
illness; the attractions of Rivebelle and Balbec, mutually 
invisible across the water; the ticking of the watch in 
Saint-Loup's room, which the visitor is unable to locate; 
the names in the railway time-table of the towns in the 
neighborhood of Balbec, which first rouse romantic im- 
ages in the mind of the boy and whose etymologies are 
explained by the curl of Combray, then become for the 



young man simply the stations of the Balbcc railway, and 
are later explained differently and authoritatively by 
Brichot, so that they take on an entirely new suggestive- 
ness. And I have shown already how the characters change 
their aspect, as the point of view of the observer changes. 
Proust has created in this respect a sort of equivalent in 
fiction for the metaphysics which certain philosophers 
have based on the new physical theory. Proust had been 
deeply influenced by Bergson, one of the forerunners of 
the modern anti-mechanists, and this had helped him to 
develop and apply on an unprecedented scale the meta- 
physics implicit in Symbolism. I have already suggested 
in the first chapter of this book that the defense by such a 
philosopher as Whitehead of the metaphysics of the Ro- 
mantics should apply and it should apply a fortiori to 
the metaphysics of the Symbolists. For modern physics, 
all our observations of what goes on in the universe are 
relative: they depend upon where we are standing when 
we make them, how fast and in which direction we are 
moving and for the Symbolist, all that is perceived in 
any moment of human experience is relative to the person 
who perceives it, and to the surroundings, the moment, 
the mood. The world becomes thus for both fourth dimen- 
sional with Time as the fourth dimension. The relativist, 
in locating a point, not only finds its co-ordinates in space, 
but also takes the time; and the ultimate units of his 
reality are "events," each of which is unique and can never 
occur again in the flux of the universe, they can only 
form similar patterns. And in Proust's world, just as the 



alleys of the Bois de Boulogne which the hero had seen in 
his youth under the influence of the beauty of Odette 
have now changed into something quite different and are 
as irrecoverable as the moments of time in which they had 
had their only existence just as his people, in spite of the 
logic of the processes by which they change, are always 
changing and will finally fade away, disintegrated by ill- 
ness or old age; so love, of which we hope so much, 
changes and fails us, and so society, which at first seems 
so stable, in a few years has recombined its groups and 
merged and transformed its classes. And, as in the uni- 
verse of Whitehead, the "events," which may be taken 
arbitrarily as infinitely small or infinitely comprehensive, 
make up an organic structure, in which all are interde- 
pendent, each involving every other and the whole; so 
Proust's book is a gigantic dense mesh of complicated 
relations: cross-references between different groups of char- 
acters and a multiplication of metaphors and similes con- 
necting the phenomena of infinitely varied fields bio- 
logical, zoological, physical, aesthetic, social, political and 
financial. (These similes seemed far-fetched and silly to 
the first readers of Proust's novel but Proust insisted that 
one of his principal concerns was to discover the real re- 
semblances between things which superficially appeared 
different. And we remember that the far-fetched com- 
parisons of the poetry of the age of Gongora and Crashaw, 
to which the poetry of the Symbolists seems akin, have 
been defended as indicating relations where none had 
previously been perceived.) 


Proust has further, in a larger way, varied the color, 
tone and pace of his narrative to correspond to the various 
periods of the hero's life. To the shimmering reveries of 
boyhood succeed the chatter, the sociability and the vivacity 
of young manhood; and to these, with that extraordinary 
sunrise which brings to the hero, not the splendor of the 
morning, but the dawning of the realization of human 
corruption and cruelty, succeeds a nightmare of the pas- 
sions, which at its climax, in the almost demoniacal scene 
where the Verdurins set Morel against Charlus, seems 
blasted with the dry breath of HelL It is characteristic 
of Proust that, though the vices he here deals with fasci- 
nated him and though he extracts from them a good deal 
of comedy, he should have given to this part of his novel 
the Scriptural title "Sodom and Gomorrah," and that he 
should make us feel that all the characters are damned. 
The grandmother and Swann are now dead. Bergotte 
dies; and at his death it is intimated, as it has already been 
intimated in connection with the composer Vinteuil, that 
only in artistic creation may we hope to find our compen- 
sation for the anarchy, the perversity, the sterility and 
the frustrations of the world. 

There is, however, yet another phase. After the death of 
Albertine, the fumes begin to clear away. When the 
narrator, after the War, finally emerges from his sani- 
tarium, the world seems more sober, more level, less color- 
ful, less troubling. He accepts for the first time in years 
an invitation to a reception at the Princesse de Guerman- 
tesV Just as he is arriving, he is crowded off the roadway 



by one of the carriages going to the party, and as he steps 
up on to the kerb, he is visited by a strange sensation the 
moment of stepping up seems to be charged with some 
mysterious significance. He has known such puzzling 
moments before: in the early part of the story he has told 
us of the inexplicable impression made upon him by the 
combination of certain church steeples which he had seen 
on a drive in his childhood and again, at a later age, by 
a clump of trees near Balbec. Why had these sights seemed 
to mean something special? Why had he derived from 
them a special satisfaction? To-day he resolves to get to 
the bottom of his feeling in connection with the kerb: he 
fixes his mind upon it and presently finds himself experi- 
encing a whole series of similar sensations. In every case, 
he now comes to realize, some accident of the physical 
world some odor, touch, taste or sound has served to 
revive in his consciousness what he had felt at some mo- 
ment of the past when a similar sense-impression had oc- 
curred as the uneven steps of the kerb, by reminding 
his body of the water-steps of Venice, has brought back 
for an instant into his mind, divorced from the rest of 
Venice, the bright Venetian light and water. And these 
memories which move him so deeply, which spring back 
into his consciousness so promptly at the most irrelevant 
provocation, must possess some peculiar value. Are they 
not symbols for the fundamental truths of that internal 
world of our consciousness which is all we know of 
reality? Are they not alone among our experiences in hav- 
ing an existence outside Time? in yielding us a kind of 



truth independent of Time's flux, independent of the in* 
coherent and ever-changing succession of our other im- 
pressions? He must apply himself to deciphering their 

When he finally goes in among the guests and after 
his long absence meets the people he has known, he feels 
acutely the passage of time, which has profoundly affected 
them all. Still haunted by the image of Albertine, as he 
had first seen her at the seaside at Balbec, he begs Gilberte 
Swann (who has since been married) to introduce him to 
some young girls. Gilberte brings her daughter over, and 
when he sees her, he knows fully at last that he himself 
is old. He has a vision of the time which he has lived and 
which he is still dragging with him in memory. While 
waiting in the library, he has happened to take down the 
same novel of George Sand with which his mother had 
read him to sleep that night, so many years ago, when he 
had lain awake so long because she had not come up to 
kiss him* And now, across all the years, he hears again the 
ringing of the bell which had announced M. Swann's 
departure, and is terrified suddenly to know that it must 
ring in his mind forever. From that night when his 
parents had first indulged him had dated the decline of 
his will. The slope on which he had started then has 
brought him to the debacle with Albertine and has left 
him, already old, with his wasted life, "le temps perdu" 
a hypochondriac like his aunt Leonie, who had seemed to 
him so eccentric in his youth and whom he had never 
dreamed of coming to resemble. For Proust, in spite of 



his aestheticism and malingering, was, on one of his sides, 
as I have said, a merciless moralist indeed, by the time 
we have finished his book, we have ceased to be surprised 
at his admiration for George Eliot, have come to see how 
much he has in common with her. 

Proust's hero, at any rate, must now retrieve the defeat 
of his will this sorry past which he now carries along 
with him, with no power to change it, to better it. He 
will turn, he vows, away from the world; but he is too 
selfish to live for others as his grandmother had done. Too 
selfish and too skeptical for what had his grandmother 
ever found in those to whom she sacrificed herself but im- 
pervious egoism ? and what had she ever earned but suf- 
fering? It is hopeless to seek happiness in others in so- 
ciety or in love. One must turn in upon oneself one finds 
the true reality only there: in those enduring extra-tem- 
poral symbols incidents and personalities as well as land- 
scapes which have been precipitated out by the interac- 
tion of one's continually changing consciousness with the 
continual change of the world. He will make of his life a 
book, and he will base it upon these symbols. So he may 
assert his will at last and retrieve his moral surrender so 
he may turn at last to swim against the current of the 
undammed, unchannelled sensibility with which he has 
been drifting all his life and at the same time master the 
world, rejoin the reality which has always seemed to elude 
him, and, opposing the flow of Time, establish something 
outside it: a work of art* 

For Proust, though all his observations seem relative, 



docs, like Einstein, build an absolute structure for his 
world of appearances. His characters may change from 
bad to good, from beautiful to ugly, as Einstein's measur- 
ing-rods shrink and elongate, his clocks become acceler- 
ated or retarded; yet as Einstein's mathematical apparatus 
enables us to establish certain relations between the differ- 
ent parts of the universe, in spite of the fact that we do 
not know how the heavenly bodies are moving in respect 
to one another and no matter from what point of view 
our measurements have been made so Proust constructs 
a moral scheme out of phenomena whose moral values are 
always shifting. (Perhaps the narrator's grandmother may 
be taken as playing for Proust the same role that the speed 
of light does for Einstein: the single constant value which 
makes the rest of the system possible!) 

These last pages of Proust's novel, like the death and 
forgetting of Albertine, make no appeal to any of the 
emotions in which novelists usually deal. They are occu- 
pied simply with the genesis of the book which we have 
just read. Yet they have a strange dramatic power, and 
they move us as Proust is always able to do just when 
there seems to be nothing more to be said. Through this 
queer exaltation of an artistic and intellectual passion di- 
vorced from every other source of human joy is heard the 
door-bell still ringing from Combray, more distinct be- 
cause isolated now and with a new and sombre signifi- 
cance as Edith Wharton says, like the knock of Fate at 
the door. And in the long last sentence of the book the 
word "Time" begins to sound, and it closes the symphony 
*s it began ifc. 



The fascination of Proust's novel is so great that, while 
we are reading it, we tend to accept it in toto. In con- 
vincing us of the reality of his creations, Proust infects us 
with his point of view, even where this point of view has 
falsified his picture of life. It is only in the latter part of 
his narrative that we begin seriously to question what he 
is telling us. Is it really true, we begin to ask ourselves, that 
one's relations with other people can never provide a last- 
ing satisfaction? Is it true that literature and art are the 
only forms of creative activity which can enable us to 
meet and master reality ? Would not such an able doctor 
as Proust represents his Cottard as being enjoy, in super- 
vising his cases, the satisfaction of knowing that he has 
imposed a little of his own private reality upon the world 
outside? Would not a diplomat like M. de Norpots in ar- 
ranging his alliances? or a hostess like Mme. de Guer- 
mantes in creating her social circle? Might not a more 
sympathetic and attentive lover than Proust's hero have 
even succeeded in recreating Albertine at least partly in his 
own image? We begin to be willing to agree with Ortega 
y Gasset that Proust is guilty of the mediaeval sin of 
accidia, that combination of slothf ulness and gloom which 
Dante represented as an eternal submergence in mud. 

For "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu," in spite of all 
its humor and beauty, is one of the gloomiest books ever 
written. Proust tells us that the idea of death has "kept 
him company as incessantly as the idea of his own iden- 



tity"; and even the water-lilies of the little river at Com- 
bray, continually straining to follow the current and con- 
tinually jerked back by their stems, arc likened to the 
futile attempts of the neurasthenic to break the habitf 
which are eating his life. Proust's lovers are always suffer- 
ing: we scarcely ever see them in any of those moments 
of ecstasy or contentment which, after all, not seldom 
occur even in the case of an unfortunate love affair and 
on the rare occasions when they are supposed to be en- 
joying themselves, the whole atmosphere is shadowed by 
the sadness and corrupted by the odor of the putrescence 
which are immediately to set in. And Proust's artists are 
unhappy, too: they have only the consolations of art. 
Proust's interminable, relentlessly repetitious and finally 
almost intolerable disquisitions on these themes end by 
goading us to the same sort of rebellion that we make 
against those dialogues of Leopardi in which, in a similar 
insistent way, Leopardi rings the changes on a similar 
theme: that man is never happy, that there is no such 
thing as satisfaction in the present. We have finally to 
accept with dismay the fact that Leopardi is a sick man 
and that, in spite of the strength of his intellect, in spite 
of his exact, close, sober classical style, all his thinking is 
sick. And so with Proust we are forced to recognize that 
his ideas and imagination are more seriously affected by 
his physical and psychological ailments than we had at 
first been willing to suppose. His characters, we begin to 
observe, are always becoming ill like the hero an im- 
mense number of them turn out homosexual, and homo* 



sexuality is "an incurable disease/ 1 Finally, they all sud- 
denly grow old in a thunderclap more hideously and 
humiliatingly old than we have ever known any real 
group of people to be. And we find that we are made 
more and more uncomfortable by Proust's incessant rub- 
bing in of all these ignominies and disabilities. We begin 
to feel less the pathos of the characters than the author's 
appetite for making them miserable. And we realize that 
the atrocious cruelty which dominates Proust's world, in 
the behavior of the people in the social scenes no less than 
in the relations of the lovers, is the hysterical sadistic com- 
plement to the hero's hysterical masochistic passivity. 
What, we ask, is the matter with Proust ? and what is it 
that has happened to his novel? The hero of "A la Re- 
cherche du Temps Perdu" is not the same person as the 
author the man who is supposed to be telling the story 
represents only specially selected aspects of the man who 
is actually composing the novel, and he is kept strictly 
within certain limits. For further light on Proust's career 
and personality, we must go to his other writings and his 
letters, and to the memoirs of his friends. 

We learn from these that Proust's chronic asthma de- 
veloped, like that of his hero, very early; and that Proust 
himself was aware from the beginning of the neurotic 
character of his ailment. One specialist, to whom his 
friends, the Bibescos, had insisted upon his going, told 
him that his asthma had "become a nervous habit," and 
that the only way for him to be cured was to go to a 
sanitarium in Germany, where they would break him ot % 



the asthma habit ("because I shall certainly not go," says 
Proust, to explain his use of the conditional) "as morphine 
addicts are cured of the morphine habit"; and another 
doctor (perhaps the same) told Proust that he would pre- 
fer not to attempt to cure him, as even if he should be 
successful, Proust would simply develop a different set of 
symptoms. Proust had evidently come to use his illness as 
a pretext for escaping the ordinary contacts with the 
world, for being relieved from the obligations of punctu- 
ality and from embarrassing encounters. His super-normal 
sensitiveness must have made the social life which so fasci- 
nated him inordinately difficult for him; and his illness 
gave him a sort of counter-advantage over people whom, 
with the deep-rooted snobbery which coexisted with a 
bold and searching intelligence, he imagined to possess 
some advantage over him. His illness enabled him to come 
late and, by doing so, to attract attention; to attract at- 
tention and provoke compassion by sitting at dinner in his 
overcoat; or not to come at all and, by stimulating peo- 
ple's interest, to make them all the more eager to enter- 
tain him. He had already, apparently, reached the point at 
an early stage of his career of compelling Prince Antoine 
Bibesco and his brother to come in late at night and de- 
scribe to him what had been going on at parties from 
which he had stayed away. And when the Bibescos ar- 
ranged to have him meet their cousin, the Princess Marthe 
Bibesco, who had written a clever book and whom he 
had expressed a great desire to know, he appeared at the 
ball where she was to be present "livid and bearded" and 



constantly shivering, "his collar turned up over his white 
tie" and "his body encased in a pelisse which was too big 
for him," so that "he had the appearance of having come 
with his coffin," and sat staring at her, as she danced, 
"with great sad eyes" until he had made her so self-con- 
scious and nervous, that, when she was finally introduced 
to him, she snubbed him. 

In 1896, when Proust was twenty-five, some men friends 
of his own age put on a little amateur revue. Proust had 
then just brought out his first book, "Les Plaisirs et les 
Jours," rather a gaudy de luxe affair, for which, with his 
passion for smartness, for combining fashion with art, he 
had succeeded in obtaining a preface by Anatole France, 
pictures by Madeleine Lemaire and musical settings for 
some of his poems by Reynaldo Hahn; and one of the 
characters in the revue was made to protest to a character 
made up as Proust about the high price of "Les Plaisirs 
et les Jours" to which Proust was made to reply with 
hyperbolic politeness and abysmal self-depreciation. When 
Proust saw this scene at a rehearsal, he went away mor- 
tally wounded and would not come to any of the per- 
formances. And at the time when he was much in love 
with a young lady the present Jeanne Pouquet and ap- 
parently one of the originals of Gilberte and was in the 
habit of going out to Neuilly to talk to the girls and bring 
them refreshments while the young men were playing 
tennis, he would be troubled by dark suspicions prob- 
ably not, says Mme. Pouquet, unjustified when a tennis 
ball would be suddenly landed in the midst of the conver- 



sation and lunch. The girl married Proust's friend, Gas- 
ton de Caillavet, and Proust ceased for many years to see 
them. Late one evening, however, at a time when Proust 
had long been living as a recluse, he called at the Cailla- 
vets's without warning and, pouring forth a thousand 
apologies, insisting that they were not to disturb them- 
selves, asked the butler whether he could see them. When 
Mme. de Caillavet and her husband appeared, he begged 
to be presented to their daughter, who had grown up 
without his having known her (as the narrator in his 
novel asks to meet the daughter of Gilberte). The young 
girl had gone to bed, but Proust implored them to make 
her come down. Mile, de Caillavet was accordingly sum- 
moned and appeared in a very bad humor but ended by 
finding Proust charming and talking to him for more 
than an hour. 

One has heard much of Proust's exquisite politeness, 
but as we read his letters, we come gradually to sympa- 
thize with those inconsiderate friends of his youth who 
had kidded him about it in their revue. The interminable 
and finespun solicitude with which Proust caresses his 
friends in his letters all too often only serves to empha- 
size the fundamental lack of consideration which allows 
him to use his asthma as an excuse for holding them at 
his disposition without making definite appointments 
with them or for compelling them to wait upon him at 
inconvenient hours. Such a letter as the following to Mme. 
Scheikevitch is not merely polite to excess: it exhibits a 
peculiar kind of overcultivated and fundamentally uncon- 



vincing sensibility to which it would be hard to find any* 
thing equal even in the eighteenth century: "How distress- 
ing to learn that you have been ill, what an additional 
source of distress to learn it only now not to have been 
able to be sad when you were suffering, because I knew 
nothing about it. How was it that I did not know ? Prob- 
ably because I have seen the Princess Soutzo so rarely and 
with so many people about it is she who has just told me. 
It is in a retrospective manner, now that you are well 
again, that I must return in my imagination and mount 
your Calvary sleep through, or rather, not sleep through, 
your nights of fever. So treacherously malignant is our 
human fate that, as if it were not painful enough for me 
to have to grieve about you with my friendship of to-day, 
the past of your suffering restores to me for a moment my 
more lively friendship of a year ago. It is with that friend- 
ship that I commiserate with you for all the distress that 
you have had and it makes me accord a maximum force 
of compassion at a time when the compassion which 
would be dictated by the present leaf of the calendar of 
my friendship would be already sorrowful enough/' Later, 
when Mme. Scheikevitch had lost her money as a result of 
the Bolshevik revolution, Proust wrote mentioning at the 
beginning of his letter that he was "very tired to write to 
you to-night" to offer to share with her the proceeds 
from the sale of a part of his furniture which he was con- 
templating at the time though "in my cardiac condition 
to-night I shan't be able to get up safely for two days." 
Mme. Scheikevitch declined this suggestion "with some 



vivacity,'* and Proust was infinitely grieved. He now ad- 
vanced the even more inacceptable proposal that she should 
engage to supply Lc Temps with a daily article and that 
Proust should write it for her. 

"It is impossible," writes Jacques-Emile Blanche, "to 
understand his correspondence (his mania), letters of six 
or eight or ten pages to anybody at all, unless one divines 
the difficulty of establishing peaceful and normal inter- 
changes with a person so remote and inaccessible, who, 
from politeness, 'gentillesse,' smothered you with flowers." 

Here we are still, however, dealing merely with the 
superficial aspects of Proust's life. For further insight into 
his personality, we must go to that early collection of 
stories and sketches which remarkable as they are be- 
cause they are immature, expose as Proust's great novel 
does not do, his special fantasies and preoccupations. "Les 
Plaisirs et les Jours," written when Proust was between 
twenty and twenty-three, contains already all the charac- 
teristic motifs of "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu." We 
discover here, not without surprise and uneasiness, that the 
disillusionment and the valetudinarianism which we had 
supposed at least painfully earned by an arduous progress 
of the soul to maturity, had in reality already been present 
in a completely developed form in the gifted and well-to- 
do young man scarcely out of his teens. The hero of the 
first of these stories, "La Mort de Baldassare Silvande, 
Vicomte de Sylvanie," is a sensitive and accomplished 
nobleman who composes music and plays the violin, who 
is always accompanied when at home on his estate by two 



pet peacocks and a pet kid, and who values, with jealous 
vanity, the friendship and attentions of the Duke of 
Parma. But though the Vicomte is rich, brilliant, smart 
and usually successful in love, he is dying of general 
paralysis at the age of thirty-five: he will never see thirty- 
six. And in the knowledge that he is surely dying, Bal- 
dassare Silvande is truly happy for the first time in his 
life he loves to lie in bed savoring the last moments of his 
life, foretasting the sad sweetness of last partings. The 
women whom he has easily possessed have meant com- 
paratively little to the Vicomte, but he is madly in love 
with and furiously jealous of a little Syracusan princess 
who loves another and cares nothing jibout him. Now, 
however, that Baldassare is on the point of death, the 
little princess often comes to see him and treats him with 

But, after a time, to Baldassare's surprise, and to the 
surprise of the doctors who are attending him, he finds 
himself taking a turn for the better: he begins to walk 
again and is evidently on the point of getting well. But, 
faced with unexpected recovery, Baldassare is brought to 
the realization that he would much prefer to die: he had 
prepared to take leave of life and he no longer cares to 
bother with living what he really enjoys is a dying con* 
dition. And, after a month of steady recovery, he begins to 
relapse into his invalid state and is soon unable to walk 
again. He summons the perverse Syracusan princess and 
begs her, as his dying request, for his sake to stay away 
from a ball where he knows that she is to lead the cotil- 



lion with her lover. "I cannot promise you that," she re- 
plies, "It is two months now since I have seen him, and I 
may never see him again." "Then remember me for a 
moment," he pleads "for the little time that, if I were 
there, you might be obliged to spend with me in order 
to avoid the appearance of being too much with him." 
"I hardly dare promise you that," she answers, "the ball 
will last so short a time. Even if I am with him all the 
time, I shall hardly have time to see him. I will give you 
a moment every day afterwards." "That won't be possible, 
you will forget me, but if, in a year's time or perhaps 
even longer, alas! something sad that you might happen 
to be reading, a death or a rainy night, should make you 
think of me, what a kindness you would be doing me!" 
Baldassare arranges himself to die. In his last pathetic 
and exquisite moments, he watches from the window a 
ship setting sail for India and listens to the chime of a 
distant village "imperceptible and profound as a heart- 
beat." He remembers how his mother had used to kiss him 
good-night in bed, how she had chafed his bare feet in 
her hands and sat beside him when he could not sleep 
and how, when his engagement to be married had been 
broken, only his mother had been able to console him. 
And amidst a sorrowing family, he expires just as the 
Duke of Parma arrives. 

It is easy to recognize in the hero of this preposterous 
story both the narrator of Proust's novel and Swann 
especially as we first see Baldassare precisely, as we do 
Swann, through the eyes of a small boy, his nephew, who 



docs not thereafter play any rdlc in the story and whose 
sole office in it seems to be to swell the grandeur of the 
grand seigneur by showing him in the perspective of a 
child's imagination. It is, in fact, almost as if the half* 
romantic Vicomte were a projection of the child's im- 

In another story, "La Confession d'une Jeune Fille," a 
young girl who tells the story herself has spent the 
sweetest hours of her life with her mother on a family 
estate; but at the age of fourteen, an "already very vicious" 
little cousin had taught her "things which made her thrill 
at once with voluptuousness and remorse." She had finally 
torn herself away, feeling a desperate need for her mother, 
whom she supposed to be still in Paris. Suddenly, however, 
as she was wandering through the grounds, she had found 
her mother sitting on a bench, smiling and holding out 
her arms. The young girl had thrown herself upon her 
and confessed, weeping, all that had happened. But at 
sixteen the girl was further corrupted by a "perverse and 
wicked" young man; and from that time on, "once the 
habit had been acquired, there was no lack of immoral 
young men to exploit it." By the time the girl has reached 
twenty, the mother's health has begun to fail and she 
wishes to see her daughter married. The girl, in order "to 
prove to her mother how much she loves her," agrees to 
marry "precisely the young man who was likely to have 
upon her the happiest influence." He had also the special 
qualification of being willing to come and live with the 
family so that the girl and her mother need not be sepa< 



rated. But almost on the very eve of the wedding, while 
the young girl's fiance is out of town, her family entertain 
at dinner the man who has first led her astray. At the in- 
sistence of a convivial uncle and against her better in- 
clination she permits herself to drink three glasses of 
champagne, whereupon, going into another room and 
locking the door, she and her evil genius fall into each 
other's arms. When they are about to join the company 
again, the girl looks at herself in the mirror and sees her 
"shining eyes, her flushed cheeks, her offered mouth a 
sensual, stupid and brutal joy," with, beside them, "the 
mouth of Jacques, avid beneath its mustaches." Then, 
from the mirror, she becomes aware that her mother is 
standing behind them watching them from the balcony 
outside the window. The mother's heart is weak: she falls 
backwards and is instantly killed. The young girl, at 
the beginning of her confession, has declared that she is 
about to commit suicide. 

The first thing that strikes us about this story is its simi- 
larity to that curious incident at the beginning of "A la 
Recherche du Temps Perdu," in which Mile. Vinteuil is 
made to derive a sadistic satisfaction from allowing her 
Lesbian companion to spit on her father's picture. To 
what extent this improbable scene was the creation of 
Proust's imagination we learn from Mme. de Gramont, 
who, in her book of memoirs of Montesquiou and Proust, 
prints a letter in which Proust explains to her that the 
situation had been based on a real incident. Mmc. de 
Gramont, however, tells us that she herself had heard 



the anecdote, and that, as a matter of fact, it was perfectly 
harmless and merely amusing: Proust had actually, either 
misunderstanding it or remembering it wrongly distort- 
ing it at any rate in his own mind along the lines of his 
peculiar obsessions substituted for the original story a 
sinister invention of his own. But, beyond this, we are able 
to identify in the incident of Mile. Vinteuil and in its 
prototype, "La Confession d'une Jeune Fille," the embryo 
of which the long novel is only the growth into a larger 
organism. Not that the behavior itself of the narrator of 
"A la Recherche du Temps Perdu*' is presented as corre- 
sponding entirely with the behavior of these two wayward 
young girls; but in the large design of the novel, the pat- 
tern is unmistakably repeated. In order to recognize it, 
however, we must first consider how the book is con- 
structed and by what methods its meanings are conveyed. 
The real elements, of course, of any work of fiction, are 
the elements of the author's personality: his imagination 
embodies in the images of characters, situations and scenes 
the fundamental conflicts of his nature or the cycle of 
phases through which it habitually passes. His personages 
are personifications of the author's various impulses and 
emotions: and the relations between them in his stories are 
really the relations between these. One of the causes, in 
fact, of our feeling that certain works are more satisfactory 
than others is to be found in the superior thoroughness 
and candor with which the author has represented these 
relations. We feel his world to be real and complete, not 
merely in proportion to the variety of elements it includes, 



but also in proportion as we recognize these elements as 
making up an organic whole. From this point of view, 
Dostoevsky is one of the most satisfactory of novelists; 
Myshkin and Rogozhin thrill us because they are the op- 
posite poles of one nature; the three brothers Karamazov 
move us because they are the spirit, mind and body of one 
man. And if we ask ourselves why even so great a novelist 
as Dickens does not make upon us so profound an impres- 
sion as Dostoevsky, we realize that it is because in the case 
of Dickens, wide and varied as the world of his novels is, 
the novelist himself is not sufficiently conscious of the sig- 
nificance of what happens there, so that, except in the very 
best of them, he has admitted a larger conventional ele- 
ment than the greatest novelists ordinarily allow and has 
been content to press into service melodramatic "good" 
characters and villains into whom he has scarcely pro* 
jected himself at all. Now if Dickens falls short of DOS- 
toevsky in this respect, Proust has passed a good deal be- 
yond him. In Dostoevsky, as in Dickens, though the char- 
acters are as much the embodiment of the novelist's im- 
pulses and emotions as the images of a dream, there is al- 
ways the framework of the story to account for and carry 
them. But there is hardly any such framework in Proust. 
I have said that Proust's novel was a symphony, and I 
have indicated its relation to Symbolism and I have ex- 
plained Proust's special idea of the kind of symbols which 
were valid for literature, the kind of symbols of which his 
own novel was to be made. Like all the graduates of the 
Symbolist school, Proust was a determined opponent of 


Naturalism: in the last part of "A la Recherche du 
Temps Perdu," when he explains the plan of his novel, he 
expresses himself emphatically and at great length on the 
futility of trying to represent reality by collecting and or- 
ganizing the data of the external world, and he handles 
with what is evidently deliberate carelessness all those facts 
which a Naturalistic novelist would have been scrupulous 
to have consistent and precise. What is more, there is no 
explicit logical connection between the different elements 
of "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu." There is a story, the 
story of the narrator, his illusions and disillusions in con- 
nection with the world of snobbery and his attachments 
for Gilberte and Albertine; yet what must have been, 
what would by any other novelist be presented as having 
been, some of the most important relations and experi- 
ences of his life are scarcely touched upon at all. We hear 
much about the narrator's grandmother, but almost noth- 
ing about his father and are never told precisely what his 
father does; we hear much about his holidays at the sea- 
shore, but nothing about his education; we are told at 
length about his visit to Saint-Loup when the latter is do- 
ing his year of military service, but nothing save through 
casual allusion about his own term in barracks. On the 
other hand, certain of the characters that figure most 
prominently in the novel have almost no relation to the 
hero at all at least no relation which the story accounts 
for: Swann is merely a friend of the family whom the nar- 
rator has occasionally seen in his youth, Charlus a person 
he sometimes meets later on. Yet these two characters al- 


most dominate, respectively, the earlier and the later parts 
of the book and as we read, we never question their sig- 
nificance: it is only when we think to examine Proust's 
novel from the point of view of ordinary fiction that we 
become aware of their irrelevance to the main narrative. 
Then we perceive that "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu/' 
which begins in the darkened room of sleep, stands alone 
as a true dream-novel among works of social observation. 
It has its harmony, development and logic, but they are 
the harmony, development and logic of the unconscious. 
I do not mean, however, to suggest that Proust accom- 
plished this result unconsciously. In retelling the stories 
from "Les Plaisirs et les Jours," which must inevitably 
sound rather absurd, I have perhaps made them seem 
more naiVe than, as Proust writes them, they actually are. 
Proust is already, in his early twenties, not by any means 
unaware of the neurotic psychology of his characters 
this is, in fact, in spite of his clothing their history in much 
lyric elegiac prose of the fin dc s&cle sensibility, one of the 
chief sources of his interest in them. We ask ourselves in 
surprise, as we finish one of these curious tales, whether 
Proust has not intended, after all, for all his apparent deli- 
quescent Romanticism, to present us with a realistic case 
history. And so the more we meditate on his novel, the 
more clearly we come to realize that the shifting propor- 
tions and juxtapositions of its elements, the order in which 
they are introduced, tell a fuller and somewhat dijfferent 
story than the rather meagre and uneventful one of the 
narrator, whose own innocuous enough case is so soon cx- 



tinguishcd in a sanitarium (to which, one remembers, 
Proust himself would not go). We recognize, on a pro- 
digious scale, the pattern of the Vinteuil episode in 
"Swann" and of the "Confession d'une Jeune Fille." 

The role of Mile. Vinteuil's father in the first of these, 
of the young girl's mother in the second, is played in the 
novel to some extent by the mother of the hero, but 
chiefly by the hero's grandmother. We know what place 
Proust's own mother had held in his life: he had lived 
with her up to the time of her death, when Proust was 
thirty-four, and in the same room he had had as a child. 
"The death of his mother," says Mme. Pouquet, "was for 
Marcel the greatest grief of his life, a veritable rending 
asunder. He had always remained for her a little child. 
She surrounded him with every attention, every vigilance. 
She knew how to look after him without ever imposing 
herself on him or importuning him. She cushioned his 
life. She accepted all Marcel's caprices as perfectly natural 
things." And we know from the "Sentiments Filiaux d'un 
Parricide" in the miscellany "Pastiches et Melanges" that 
he bitterly and morbidly blamed himself for having sad- 
dened and perhaps shortened her life. Now the hero of 
the novel is represented as causing his grandmother and 
mother much anxiety and as reproaching himself extrava- 
gantly for doing so, but he is not made to sin against them 
their simplicity, piety, rigor, their too protective affec- 
tion in the same perverse way in which the jeunc file 
and Mile. Vinteuil do. Yet the impression we get is the 
same. About the middle of "A la Recherche du Temps 



Perdu,'* in a scries of touching, wonderfully written, but 
exceedingly cruel scenes, the hero's grandmother is made 
to die; and immediately afterwards, the figure of Charlus 
begins to swell to enormous proportions: to the salute of a 
sulphurous overture, the most formidable set-piece in the 
book, the demon of homosexuality rises. 

This subject does take on, in Proust, a truly demoniacaj 
character: Proust does not try to sell us homosexuality by 
making it appear attractive and respectable, as Andre 
Gide, for example, does. The tone of the overture to "So- 
dome et Gomorrhe," which so sepulchrally groans and 
wails over the hard lot of the homosexuals, is gruesome 
rather than tragic; and as we read on, we become aware of 
something special and rather suspect about Proust's atti- 
tude toward this subject. It seems to me plain, in spite of 
all the rumors as to the ambiguity of Albertine's sex, that 
both Proust's hero and himself were exceedingly suscep- 
tible to women: we are certainly made to feel the femi- 
nine attraction of both Albertine and Odette, and the spell 
of their lovers' infatuation, whereas, on the other hand, 
none of the male homosexual characters is ever made to 
appear anything but horrible or comic. Proust had ap- 
parently, in his youth, been in love at different times with 
several women Mme. Pouquet was evidently one of these 
had fared rather badly with them and had never for- 
given them to the end of his days. And he shows in "A 
la Recherche du Temps Perdu" more resentment against 
the opposite sex than enthusiasm for his own. Homosexu- 
ality figures in Proust almost exclusively under the aspect 



of perversity, and it is in general unmistakably associated, 
as in the incident of Mile. Vinteuil, with another kind of 
perversity, sadism. The cruel and nasty side of Proust is 
the inevitable reaction against, the inevitable compensa- 
tion for, the good-little-boy side which see the letters 
quoted above to Mme. Scheikevitch was a great deal too 
good to be human or, more precisely, which remained 
rather puerile, Proust himself has given the key to the situ- 
ation in his comment on Mile. Vinteuil: "It was not that 
she derived pleasure from the idea of doing evil, that evil 
seemed agreeable to her. It was that pleasure seemed to 
her wicked. And since, whenever she gave herself up to 
it, it was accompanied for her by evil thoughts which were 
otherwise foreign to her virtuous nature, she ended by 
finding in pleasure something diabolical, by identifying it 
with Evil." 

The grandmother, in the novel, dies in agony; and the 
demon Charlus pops up. The narrator, still in his mother's 
house, tortures himself over his inability to hold Albertine, 
whom he has brought there in his mother's absence, at the 
same time that he is never able to make up his mind 
whether he has ever really wanted her. When Albertine 
finally leaves him, the emotional life of the book becomes 
progressively asphyxiated by the infernal fumes which 
Charlus has brought with him until such a large per- 
centage of the characters have tragically, gruesomely, ir- 
revocably, turned out to be homosexual that we begin for 
the first time to find the story a little incredible. Charlus is 
obviously a projection of the later Proust, an extension of 



the history of the narrator, as Swann has been of the 
earlier and as Baldassare Silvande seemed to he of the 
young nephew who magnified him. We assist at Charlus's 
moral debacle and we leave him finally in a state of semi- 
idiocy. And the ultimate degradation of Charlus is fol- 
lowed immediately, with an effect of recovery and con- 
trast, by the narrator's heroic resolve to retrieve the waste 
of his self-indulgent life by shutting himself away from 
the world and giving himself up to writing his novel a 
retirement by which, he strangely explains, he will also 
punish himself for the anxiety he had caused his grand- 
mother, for the suffering and illness which she had been 
forced to endure in solitude. 

The elements here of Proust's dependence on his moth- 
er; his unsatisfactory relations with women; and his im- 
pulses toward a sterile and infantile perversity, would, no 
doubt, be explained in somewhat different ways by the 
different schools of modern psychology: Proust is a perfect 
case for psychoanalysis. But that there is a relation be- 
tween these elements is plain. Proust was never able to 
find any other woman to care for him as his mother did. 
His friends have testified to the fact that it was impossible 
for any friend or inamorata to meet the all-absorbing de- 
mands for sympathy and attention which he was accus- 
tomed to having satisfied at home; and he was unwilling 
or unable to make the effort to adjust himself to any non- 
filial relation. The ultimate result was that strange state of 
mind which often disconcerts us in his novel: a state of 
mind which combines a complacent egoism with a plain- 


five malaise at feeling itself shut off from the world, a 
dismay at the apparent impossibility of making connec- 
tions with other human beings. We end by feeling that, 
after all, he enjoys the situation of which he is always 
complaining. Did he not prefer, after all, his invalid's cell, 
with his mother ministering to him, to the give and take 
of human intercourse ? The death of his mother upset this 
situation and we probably owe his novel to it. Proust, with 
his narcotics, his fumigations, his cork-lined chamber, his 
faithful servants and his practice of sleeping all day, ar- 
ranged for himself an existence as well protected as it had 
been during his mother's lifetime; but lacking that one 
human relationship which had sustained him, he was 
obliged to supply something to take its place and for the 
first time he set himself seriously to work. His need now 
to rejoin that world of humanity from which he had al- 
lowed himself to be exiled became much more pressing, 
and his book was a last desperate effort to satisfy it. But 
the book itself had been undertaken, if not quite, as he 
says, "on the eve of death, knowing nothing of my trade,'* 
at least late in life and with no experience of writing to 
be read, of putting himself into communication with his 
readers; and the penalties for this were the unassimilably 
long sentences and the tiresome repetitious analyses self- 
indulgences on Proust's part even here which sometimes 
make him so exasperating to read. 

And it is further true that Proust's novel as a whole, su- 
perb as are the qualities of objective dramatic imagination 
which have gone into it, was never quite disengaged from 


his sick-room. "That work which I was bearing inside 
me," he calls it in "Le Temps Retrouve" he never en- 
tirely got it out. Is he telling us his own case-history with 
symbols? Is he presenting the world as he believes it to 
be ? He is never perhaps quite sure himself. That he could 
doubt what seem to be the book's basic assumptions is indi- 
cated by one of his letters in which he confesses to hav- 
ing cut out a long passage of "A la Recherche du Temps 
Perdu" in which he had asserted that reciprocal love was 
not merely difficult and rare, but universally impossible - 
leaving only an expression of skepticism as to whether any- 
one was any better off than he. And I believe that those 
aspects of his novel which seem ambiguous or distorted are 
due to Proust's own uncertainty as to whether he is ex- 
emplifying universal principles of human conduct or pro- 
jecting by images sometimes monstrous the elements of a 
personality which he knew to be morbid and special. 

Proust's novel kept him up till he had finished it; but 
when he had finished it, he died. His mother died in 1905; 
and between 1906 and 1912, Proust had written the whole 
of a first version of "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" 
(without the chapter about the War, which was added 
afterwards). The first volume was brought out in 1913; 
and thereafter, though his illness grew worse, though he 
seemed on the point of succumbing at last to that death 
which since his early twenties when he had written "La 
Mort de Baldassare Silvande" he had indulged himself 
continually in anticipating, he survived long enough to re- 
vise and supervise the publication of almost the whole. 


But he did not quite sec it through. The last sections 
which he sent to the press were the volumes called "La 
Prisonniere" the climax of the narrator's story, his strug- 
gle and failure with Albertine. After that, in the novel it- 
self, there is nothing but demoralization and decay until 
the end, when the narrator makes a stand, in the only way 
which now seems possible, against the universal disinte- 
gration: by setting himself to reintegrate experience in a 
work of literature the point, therefore, at which Proust 
himself had sixteen years earlier begun. He did not live to 
finish correcting the proofs of "La Prisonniere" who will 
wonder that so neurotic a man was unable to remain alive 
to put in order the final chapters of so dispiriting a story ? 
Early in the October of 1922 he caught a chill and ran up 
a high fever, but stubbornly refused to see a doctor. He 
worked at his novel harder than ever, as if he had been 
racing with the death which at the same time he was 
frankly inviting. As his fever grew continually worse, he 
ceased to take any nourishment except a little iced beer 
which he had brought in, in a pail, from the Ritz. When 
his brother, a doctor, came to see him, Proust, fearing to 
be dislodged from his apartment, threatened to jump out 
of the window if he were not let alone, but promised to 
allow medical treatment as soon as he had finished his 
work. The day of his death, in mid-November, he sum- 
moned his maid at three in the morning and dictated to 
her some supplementary notes on the death of the novelist, 
Bergotte remarking when he had finished that he 
thought what he had added was good. It is at the death of 



Bcrgottc that Proust's narrator, in what is perhaps the 
noblest passage of the book, affirms the reality of those ob- 
ligations, culminating in the obligation of the writer to do 
his work as it ought to be done, which seem to be derived 
from some other world, "based on goodness, scrupulous- 
ness, sacrifice," so little sanction can we recognize them as 
having in the uncertain and selfish world of humanity 
those "laws which we have obeyed because we have car- 
ried their precepts within us without knowing who in- 
scribed them there those laws to which we are brought 
by every profound exercise of the intelligence, and which 
are invisible only and are they really ? to fools." But at 
about this time, and perhaps as a result of the effort of 
dictating these revisions, an abscess burst in Proust's lung 
and the next day he was dead. 


In spite of all the less reassuring or less agreeable aspects 
of Proust which appear more plainly in his letters and the 
memoirs of him than in "A la Recherche du Temps Per- 
du" his self-coddling, his chronic complaining, his per- 
versity, his overcultivated sensibility we get the impres- 
sion from them, as we do in his novel, of an intellect and 
imagination vigorous, comprehensive and deep. One of 
the things which strikes us most is his capacity for keeping 
in intimate touch with various circles of friends, as with 
various fields of activity, sympathizing with the emotions, 
understanding the interests, and following the affairs of 



each, though of the several groups already represented by 
the memoirs which have so far been published, all seem 
pretty well independent of each other and some scarcely at 
any point to overlap. And in spite of all his parade of 
weakness, in spite of all his masks and indirections, we re- 
member him as a personality of singular magnanimity, 
integrity and strength. That he was capable of showing 
considerable spirit was shown by his behavior at the time 
of the Dreyfus case and by his fighting a duel with a 
journalist over a review of "Les Plaisirs et Les Jours." 
"There were in Marcel Proust," says Lucien Daudet, "all 
the elements of a spoiled child: he never actually became 
one, because his genius had the corrective effect of disso- 
ciating these elements his genius, his personal dignity 
and also his sense of humor." 

And so though we may regret the spoiled child in 
Proust, the spoiled child of rich parents who has never 
had to meet the world on equal terms and who has never 
felt the necessity of relating his art and ideas to the general 
problems of human society; though the tragedy of the 
Guermantes' light reception of Swann's announcement of 
his mortal illness may come to seem to us somewhat less 
tragic in retrospect though we may come to feel a little 
impatient at having our pity so continually solicited for 
valetudinarian neurotics who are at least always provided 
with enough money to be neurotic in peace and comfort; 
though Proust's dramatic progressive revelation of the 
anomalies and miseries of the world may come to appear 
to us less profound when we begin to realize the extreme 



naivete of some of the assumptions upon which he pro- 
ceeds snobbish naivete in regard to the importance of so- 
cial differences and naivete in regard to sex and to human 
relations in general; none the less, we must recognize in 
Proust, it seems to me, one of the great minds and imagi- 
nations of our day, absolutely comparable in our own 
time, by reason both of his powers and of his influence, to 
the Nietzsches, the Tolstois, the Wagners and the Ibsens 
of a previous generation. He has recreated the world of the 
novel from the point of view of relativity: he has supplied 
for the first time in literature an equivalent on the full scale 
for the new theory of modern physics. 

Imaginatively and intellectually, Proust is prodigiously 
strong; and if we feel an element of decadence in his 
work, it may be primarily due to the decay of the society 
in which he lived and with which his novel exclusively 
deals the society of the dispossessed nobility and the fash- 
ionable and cultivated bourgeoisie, with their physicians 
and their artists, their servants and their parasites. We are 
always feeling with Proust as if we were reading about the 
end of something this seems, in fact, to be what he 
means us to feel: witness the implications of the bombard- 
ment of Paris during the War when Charlus is in the last 
stages of his disintegration. Not only do his hero and most 
of his other characters pass into mortal declines, but their 
world itself seems to be coming to an end. And it may be 
that Proust's strange poetry and brilliance are the last fires 
of a setting sun the last flare of the aesthetic idealism of 
the educated classes of the nineteenth century. If Proust is 



more dramatic, more complete and more intense than 
Thackeray or Chekov or Edith Wharton or Anatole 
France, it may be because he comes at the close of an era 
and sums up the whole situation. Surely the lament over 
the impossibility of ideal romantic love which Proust is al- 
ways chanting on a note which wavers between the tragic 
and the maudlin announces by its very falling into ab- 
surdity the break-up of a whole emotional idealism and its 
ultimate analysis and readjustment along lines which 
Proust's own researches, running curiously close to Freud, 
have been among the first to suggest. "A la Recherche du 
Temps Perdu" subsumes, in this respect, "The Great Gats- 
by," "The Sun Also Rises," "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," 
the sketches of Dorothy Parker, and how many contempo- 
rary European novels! Proust is perhaps the last great his- 
torian of the loves, the society, the intelligence, the diplo- 
macy, the literature and the art of the Heartbreak House 
of capitalist culture; and the little man with the sad ap- 
pealing voice, the metaphysician's mind, the Saracen's 
beak, the ill-fitting dress-shirt and the great eyes that seem 
to see all about him like the many-faceted eyes of a fly, 
dominates the scene and plays host in the mansion where 
he is not long to be master. 




TAMES JOYCE'S first work of fiction, the volume of 
*J short stories called "Dubliners," was finished in 1904 
and was to have been brought out by a Dublin publisher; 
but for a combination of reasons, including the supposed 
impropriety of certain of the stories, the introduction by 
name of the Dublin shops, restaurants and pubs, and some 
disrespectful references to Queen Victoria and Edward 
VII on the part of one of the characters, the Irish publish- 
ers could never bring themselves to publish the book until 
it had first been brought out in England in 1914, ten years 
after it had been written. "A Portrait of the Artist as a 
Young Man" was published first in New York in 1916* 
Neither of these books had much in common with the 
English fiction then being written: the typical novelists of 
that time were H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett, and 
Joyce was not in the least like either. In their recent liter- 
ary renaissance the Irish had been closer to the Continent 
than to London; and James Joyce, like George Moore, was 
working in the tradition, not of English, but of French fic- 
tion. "Dubliners" was French in its objectivity, its sobriety 
and its irony, at the same time that its paragraphs ran with 
a music and a grace quite distinct from the taut metallic 
quality of Maupassant and Flaubert. And "A Portrait of 
the Artist as a Young Man," coming at a time when the 



public was already surfeited with the early histories of sen- 
sitive young men the Edward Ponderevos, the Clayhang- 
ers, the Jacob Stahls, the Michael Fanes not only was 
able to attract attention, but had the effect of making most 
of these books look psychologically superficial and artis- 
tically shoddy. 

"Ulysses" was published in Paris in 1922. It had origi- 
nally been conceived as a short story for "Dubliners," and 
was to have been called "Mr. Bloom's Day in Dublin" or 
something of the sort. But this idea was afterwards com- 
bined with the further history of Stephen Dedalus, the 
hero of the autobiographical "Portrait of the Artist as a 
Young Man." "Ulysses," however, in its final form as a 
volume of seven hundred-odd large pages, took shape as 
something entirely different from either of Joyce's earlier 
books, and it must be approached from a different point 
of view than as if it were merely, like the others, a straight 
Work of Naturalistic fiction. 

The key to "Ulysses" is in the title and this key is in- 
dispensable if we are to appreciate the book's real depth 
and scope. Ulysses, as he figures in the "Odyssey," is a sort 
of type of the average intelligent Greek: among the 
heroes, he is distinguished for cunning rather than for 
exalted wisdom, and for common sense, quickness and 
nerve rather than for, say, the passionate bravery of an 
Achilles or the steadfastness and stoutness of a Hector* 
The "Odyssey" exhibits such a man in practically every 
situation and relation of an ordinary human life Ulysses, 
in the course of his wanderings, runs the whole gauntlet 


of temptations and ordeals and through his wits he sur- 
vives them all to return at last to his home and family 
and to reassert himself there as master. The "Odyssey" 
thus provides a classical model for a writer attempting a 
modern epic of the ordinary man and a model particu- 
larly attractive to a modern writer by reason of the appar- 
ently calculated effectiveness, the apparent sophistication, 
of its form. By a device suggestive of some of the novels 
of Conrad, Homer has framed the wanderings of Ulysses 
between an introductory group of books in which our in- 
terest is aroused in the hero before we meet him by Te- 
lemachus's search for his lost father, and a culminating 
group of books which present dramatically and on a larger 
scale the wanderer's return home. 

Now the "Ulysses" of Joyce is a modern "Odyssey," 
which follows closely the classical "Odyssey" in both sub- 
ject and form; and the significance of the characters and 
incidents of its ostensibly Naturalistic narrative cannot 
properly be understood without reference to the Homeric 
original. Joyce's Telemachus cf the opening books is 
Stephen Dedalus that is, Joyce himself. The Dedaluses, 
as we have already learned from "A Portrait of the Artist 
as a Young Man," are a shabby-genteel family of Dub- 
liners. Stephen's father, Simon Dedalus, has run through 
a great variety of employments to end up as nothing in 
particular, a drinker, a decayed sport, an amateur tenor, a 
well-known character of the bars. But Stephen has been 
given * good education at a Jesuit college, and we have 
seen him, at the end of the earlier novel, on the point of 



leaving for France to study and write. At the beginning 
of "Ulysses," he has been back in Dublin a year: he had 
been summoned home from Paris by a telegram that his 
mother was dying. And now, a year after her death, the 
Dedalus family, already reduced to poverty, has become 
completely demoralized and disintegrated. While Ste- 
'phen's young sisters and brothers have hardly enough to 
cat, Simon Dedalus makes the rounds of the pubs. Ste- 
phen, who has always resented his father, feels now that 
in effect he has none. He is more isolated in Dublin than 
ever. He is Telemachus in search of a Ulysses. His friend, 
the medical student, Buck Mulligan, with whom he is liv- 
ing in an old tower on the coast and who believes himself 
to share Stephen's artistic tastes and intellectual interests, 
really humiliates him by patronizing him and turns to 
ridicule his abilities and ambitions. He is Antinous, that 
boldest of Penelope's suitors, who, while Ulysses is away, 
tries to make himself master of his house and mocks at 
Telemachus. Stephen has announced at the end of the 
earlier book that he is going forth "to forge in the smithy 
of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race"; and now 
he has returned to Dublin baffled and disinherited his 
life with Mulligan is dissolute and unproductive. Yet as 
Telemachus finds friends and helpers, so Stephen is re- 
minded by the old woman who brings the milk for break- 
fast in the tower of that Ireland whose uncreated con- 
science it is still his destiny to forge: "Old and secret . . . 
maybe a messenger." She is Athene in the guise of Mentor 
who provides Telemachus with his ship; and the memory 



of Kevin Egan, an Irish exile in Paris, is the Menelaus 
who speeds him on his way. 

The scene now shifts, as it does in the "Odyssey," to the 
lost Ulysses himself. Joyce's Ulysses is a Dublin Jew, an 
advertisement canvasser named Bloom. Like Stephen, he 
dwells among aliens: a Jew and the son of a Hungarian 
father, he is still more or less of a foreigner among the 
Irish; and a man of something less than mediocre abili- 
ties, but of real sensibility and intelligence, he has little in 
common with the other inhabitants of the lower middle*- 
class world in which he lives. He has been married for 
sixteen years to the buxom daughter of an Irish army 
officer, a professional singer, of prodigious sexual appe- 
tite, who has been continually and indiscriminately un- 
faithful to him. They have had one daughter, who is 
already growing up and apparently going the way of her 
mother; and one son, of whom Bloom had hoped that he 
might resemble, that he might refine upon, himself, but 
who died eleven days after he was born. Things have 
never been the same between the Blooms since the death 
of this son; it is now more than ten years since Bloom has 
attempted complete intercourse with his wife it is as if 
the birth of the sickly Rudy had discouraged him and 
made him doubt his virility. He is aware that his wife has 
lovers; but he does not complain or try to interfere he is 
even resigned to her accepting money from them. He is 
a Ulysses with no Telemachus and cut off from his Pe- 

We now follow Bloom's adventures on the day of Jun< 



i6 f 1904 (the whole of "Ulysses" takes place within less 
than twenty-four hours). Lotus-eaters allure him; he is af- 
frighted by Laestrygcnians. He assists at the burial of an 
Eipenor and descends with him in imagination to the un- 
derworld; he suffers from the varying favor of an ^Eolus. 
He escapes by ruse from the ferocity of a Cyclops and he 
disengages himself through prudence from the maiden 
charms of a Nausicaa. And he emerges finally a man 
again from the brothel of a Circe who had transformed 
him into a swine. 

The comings and goings of Stephen during the day are 
woven in and out among the wanderings of Bloom: the 
two encounter each other twice but do not recognize each 
other. Both men, we become aware, are constantly accom- 
panied and oppressed by ideas which they have tried to 
dismiss from their minds: the family situation of each 
really lies back of and explains all that he does that day. 
In Stephen's case, it is only a few days from the anniver- 
sary of his mother's death, and he is haunted by the mem- 
ory of it: she had begged him on her deathbed to kneel 
down and pray for her soul and, in rebellion against the 
Catholic education which had disciplined and maimed his 
spirit, jealous of the independence he had won and in fear 
of the past to which he had returned, he had cruelly re- 
fused and had allowed her to die without the comfort of 
believing that he had repented of his apostasy. But now 
that she is dead, this incident tortures him. He has in 
the early morning reproached Mulligan accusing really 
himself for something the latter had said about Stc* 



phen's mother at the time of her death which Stephen 
had overheard and resented; and, as he has looked out 
upon the bright morning sea, the pathos and horror of 
her life have become suddenly vivid to him he has been 
dragged back to relive all that she had suffered. Then, 
"No, mother!" he has cried out within himself as he 
thrust her memory down out of his mind, "let me be and 
let me live!" But through his whole bitter and baffled day, 
it is his helpless feeling of guilt toward his mother, his 
hopeless discouragement and disgust with his father, 
which govern all his thoughts and movements. When he 
teaches school, he brings the class to a close by a hysteri- 
cal joke about "the fox burying his grandmother under a 
hollybush," and in a stupid boy who cannot do his sums 
he can see now only his own graceless youth which his 
mother had shielded from the world. After school, he has 
gone to walk on the beach and has contemplated paying 
a visit to the family of a maternal uncle whom he de- 
spises, as if he could do penance in this fashion for his 
hardness to his mother and somehow make it up to her 
now by kindness to her wretched relatives; but again 
the counter-impulse which had proved too strong on the 
former occasion comes into play to block his intention: 
his mind drifts off to other things and he walks beyond 
where he should have turned. The artist still conflicts with 
the son the two are irreconcilable: he sets out to com- 
pose a poem, but the poem itself breaks down and he is 
left gazing at a silent homing ship. Visiting the library 
later in the day, he improvises a long, pretentious lecture 



on the relation of Shakespeare to his father a lecture 
which has little to do with Shakespeare, but a good deal 
to do with Stephen himself. 

And as Stephen is ridden by thoughts of his parents, so 
Bloom is ridden by thoughts of his wife. He has seen 
Molly at breakfast get a letter which he suspects and sus- 
pects rightly to be from Blazes Boylan, a flashy buck 
about town who is managing a concert tour for her and 
with whom she is having a love affair. All day he has to 
change the subject when Boylan's name is mentioned 
all day he avoids meeting him in the street. In the after- 
noon, while Bloom is eating at the Ormond Hotel, Boylan 
comes into the bar, gets a drink and sets off to call on Mrs, 
Bloom, and when he has gone, Bloom hears the men in 
the bar talking and laughing about Molly's easy favors. 
And the conversation, later on in die pub, about Boylan's 
having won money in a boxing-match in spite of 
Bloom's gently insistent efforts to induce the company to 
talk about tennis is one of the incidents which give rise 
to an antagonism between Bloom and the rest of the com- 
pany and eventually to the quarrel between the Cyclops- 
Citizen and Bloom. At the end of the Nausicaa episode, 
the voice of the cuckoo-clock from the priest's house tells 
Bloom that he is now a cuckold. 

In the evening, Bloom goes to a maternity hospital to 
inquire after the wife of a friend who has been having 
a hard delivery: there he meets and recognizes Stephen, 
who is drinking with the medical students. In the "Odys- 
sey," the final shipwreck of Ulysses and his subsequent 



misfortunes arc the result of the impiety of his compan- 
ions, who in defiance of all his warnings have killed and 
eaten the Oxen of the Sun. So Bloom is pained by the im- 
piety of the medical students as they joke obscenely about 
childbirth and maternity. On the part of Stephen, whose 
mother died only a year ago, this levity seems especially 
shocking, but Stephen's very feeling of guilt about her 
makes him particularly blasphemous and brutal. Yet 
Bloom has himself in his own way offended against the 
principle of fertility by his recent prolonged neglect of 
Molly: the Calypso who has detained him since his ship- 
wreck is the nymph who hangs in his bedroom and whom 
he makes the object of amorous fantasies. It is this sin 
against fertility which at the hour when Mrs. Bloom is 
entertaining Boylan has landed Bloom on the Phxacian 
strand indulging in further erotic daydreams in connec- 
tion with little Gerty MacDowell, the Nausicaa of the 
Dublin beach. 

When Mrs. Purefoy's child has finally been born, the 
party rushes out to a public house; and, later on after a 
drunken altercation between Dedalus and Buck Mulligan 
at the tram station, in which Antinous and Telemachus 
apparently dispute over the key to the tower and Te- 
lemachus goes away homeless Stephen, with one of his 
companions and with Bloom following some distance be- 
hind, proceed to a brothel. Both, by this time, are pretty 
drunk though Bloom, with his invincible prudence, is 
not so drunk as Stephen. And in their drunkenness, in 
the sordid gaslight and to the tune of the mechanical 



piano of the brothel, their respective preoccupations 
emerge fully for the first time since the morning into their 
conscious minds: Bloom beholds himself, in a hideous vi- 
sion, looking on at Blazes Boylan and Molly, an abject 
cuckold, the laughing-stock of the world; and there rises 
suddenly in Stephen's imagination the figure of his dead 
mother come back from the grave to remind him of hel 
bleak disheartened love and to implore him to pray for 
her soul. But again he will not, cannot, acquiesce; in a des- 
perate drunken gesture, intolerably torn by his conflict of 
impulses, by his emotions which deadlock each other, he 
lifts his stick and smashes the chandelier then rushes out 
into the street, where he gets embroiled with two English 
Tommies and knocked down. Bloom has followed and, 
as he bends over Stephen, beholds an apparition of his 
own dead son, little Rudy, as Bloom would have had him 
live to be learned, cultivated, sensitive, refined: such a 
youth, in short, as Stephen Dedalus. Ulysses and Telem- 
achus are united. 

Bloom picks Stephen up and takes him first to a coffee- 
stand, then home to his own house. He tries to talk to him 
of the arts and sciences, of the general ideas which interest 
him; but Stephen is morose and exhausted and makes lit- 
tle response. Bloom begs him to spend the night to come 
and live with them, but Stephen declines and presently 
takes his leave. Bloom goes up, goes to bed with Molly, 
describes to her his adventures of the day, and soon drops 
off to sleep. 

But Bloom's encounter with Stephen is to affect both 



Stephen's life and the relations between the Blooms. To 
have rescued and talked with Stephen has somehow re- 
stored Bloom's self-confidence. He has gotten into the 
habit in the past of cooking breakfast for Molly in the 
morning and bringing it to her in bed it is the first 
thing we have seen him doing at the beginning of the 
day; but to-night, before he goes to sleep, he gives her to 
understand that he expects her to get breakfast next morn- 
ing herself and to bring it up to him. This amazes and dis- 
concerts Mrs. Bloom, and the rest of the book is the record 
of her meditations as she lies awake thinking over Bloom's 
homecoming. She has been mystified by his recent be- 
havior, and her attitude toward him now is at first a mix- 
ture of jealousy and resentment. She congratulates herself 
upon the fact that, if Bloom neglects her nowadays, her 
needs are ably supplied by Blazes Boylan. But as she be- 
gins to ruminate on the possibility of Stephen Dedalus's 
coming to live with them, the idea of Blazes Boylan's 
coarseness becomes intolerable to her: the thought of Ste- 
phen has made her fastidious, and, rapidly becoming very 
tender about him, she prefigures a relation between them 
of an ambiguous but intimate character, half -amorous, 
half-maternal. Yet it is Bloom himself who has primarily 
been the cause of this revolution in Molly 's mind: in tell- 
ing her about Stephen, he has imposed upon her again his 
own values; in staying away from the house all day and 
coming back very late at night, and in asking for his 
breakfast in bed, he has reasserted his own will And she 
goes back in her mind over her experience of Bloom 



their courtship, their married life. She remembers how, 
when she had promised to marry him, it had been his in- 
telligence and his sympathetic nature, that touch of imagi- 
nation which distinguished him from other men, which 
had influenced her in his favor "because he understood 
or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get 
around him' 5 ; and on the day when he had first kissed 
her, he had called her "a flower of the mountain/' It is in 
the mind of his Penelope that this Ulysses has slain the 
suitors who have been disputing his place. 

As for Stephen, unresponsive as he has seemed to 
Bloom's interest and cordiality, he has at last, none the 
less, found in Dublin someone sufficiently sympathetic to 
himself to give him the clew, to supply him with the sub- 
ject, which will enable him to enter imaginatively as an 
artist into the common life of his race. It is possible that 
Molly and Bloom, as a result of Bloom's meeting with 
Stephen, will resume normal marital relations; but it is 
certain that Stephen, as a result of this meeting, will go 
away and write "Ulysses." Buck Mulligan has told us that 
the young poet says he is going "to write something in ten 
years": that was in 1904 "Ulysses" is dated at the end as 
having been begun in 1914. 


This is the story of "Ulysses" in the light of its Homeric 
parallel; but to describe the book in such a way gives no 



idea of what it is really like of its psychological and tech- 
nical discoveries or of its magnificent poetry. 

"Ulysses" is, I suppose, the most completely "written" 
novel since Flaubert. The example of the great prose poet 
of Naturalism has profoundly influenced Joyce in his at- 
titude toward the modern bourgeois world and in the con- 
trast implied by the Homeric parallel of "Ulysses" be- 
tween our own and the ancient world, as well as in an 
ideal of rigorous objectivity and of adaptation of style to 
subject as the influence of that other great Naturalistic 
poet, Ibsen, is obvious in Joyce's single play, "Exiles." But 
Flaubert had, in general, confined himself to fitting the 
cadence and the phrase precisely to the mood or object de- 
scribed; and even then it was the phrase rather than the 
cadence, and the object rather than the mood, with which 
he was occupied for mood and cadence in Flaubert do 
not really vary much: he never embodies himself in his 
characters nor identifies his voice with theirs, and as a re- 
sult, Flaubert's own characteristic tone of the sombre- 
pompous-ironic becomes, in the long run, a little monoto- 
nous. But Joyce has undertaken in "Ulysses" not merely to 
render, with the last accuracy and beauty, the actual sights 
and sounds among which his people move, but, showing 
us the world as his characters perceive it, to find the 
unique vocabulary and rhythm which will represent the 
thoughts of each. If Flaubert taught Maupassant to look 
for the definitive adjectives which would distinguish a 
given cab-driver from every other cab-driver at the Rouen 
station, so Joyce has set himself the task of finding the pre- 


else dialect which will distinguish the thoughts of a given 
Dubliner from those of every other Dubliner. Thus the 
mind of Stephen Dedalus is represented by a weaving of 
bright poetic images and fragmentary abstractions, of 
things remembered from books, on a rhythm sober, mel- 
ancholy and proud; that of Bloom by a rapid staccato no- 
tation, prosaic but vivid and alert, jetting out in all direc- 
tions in little ideas growing out of ideas; the thoughts of 
Father Conmee, the Rector of the Jesuit college, by a pre- 
cise prose, perfectly colorless and orderly; those of Gerty- 
Nausicaa by a combination of school-girl colloquialisms 
with the jargon of cheap romance; and the ruminations 
of Mrs. Bloom by a long, unbroken rhythm of brogue, 
like the swell of some profound sea. 

Joyce takes us thus directly into the consciousness of his 
characters, and in order to do so, he has availed himself 
of methods of which Flaubert never dreamed of the 
methods of Symbolism. He has, in "Ulysses," exploited to- 
gether, as no writer had thought to do before, the re- 
sources both of Symbolism and of Naturalism. Proust's 
novel, masterly as it is, does perhaps represent a falling 
over into decadence of psychological fiction: the subjec- 
tive element is finally allowed to invade and to deteriorate 
even those aspects of the story which really ought to be 
kept strictly objective if one is to believe that it is actually 
happening. But Joyce's grasp on his objective world never 
slips: his work is unshakably established on Naturalistic 
foundations. Where "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" 
leaves many things vague the ages of the characters and 



sometimes the actual circumstances of their lives, and- 
what is worse whether they may not be merely bad 
dreams that the hero has had; "Ulysses" has been logically 
thought out and accurately documented to the last detail: 
everything that happens is perfectly consistent, and we 
know precisely what the characters wore, how much they 
paid for things, where they were at different times of the 
day, what popular songs they sang and what events they 
read of in the papers, on June 16, 1904. Yet when we are 
admitted to the mind of any one of them, we are in a 
world as complex and special, a world sometimes as fan- 
tastic or obscure, as that of a Symbolist poet and a world 
rendered by similar devices of language. We are more at 
home in the minds of Joyce's characters than we are likely 
to be, except after some study, in the mind of a Mallarm6 
or an Eliot, because we know more about the circum- 
stances in which they find themselves; but we are con- 
fronted with the same sort of confusion between emotions, 
perceptions and reasonings, and we are likely to be dis- 
concerted by the same sort of hiatuses of thought, when 
certain links in the association of ideas are dropped down 
into the unconscious mind so that we are obliged to divine 
them for ourselves. 

But Joyce has carried the methods of Symbolism further 
than merely to set a Naturalistic scene and then, in that 
frame, to represent directly the minds of his different char- 
acters in Symbolistic monologues like "Mr. Prufrock" or 
"L'Apres-midi d'un Faune." And it is the fact that he has 
not always stopped here which makes parts of "Ulysses" so 



puzzling when we read them for the first time. So long as 
we are dealing with internal monologues in realistic set- 
tings, we are dealing with familiar elements merely com- 
bined in a novel way that is, instead of reading, "Bloom 
said to himself, 'I might manage to write a story to illus- 
trate some proverb or other. I could sign it, Mr. and Mrs. 
L. M. Bloom,' " we read, "Might manage a sketch. By Mr. 
and Mrs. L. M. Bloom. Invent a story for some proverb 
which?" But as we get further along in "Ulysses," we find 
the realistic setting oddly distorting itself and deliquesc- 
ing, and we are astonished at the introduction of voices 
which seem to belong neither to the characters nor to the 

The point is that of each of his episodes Joyce has tried 
to make an independent unit which shall blend the differ- 
ent sets of elements of each the minds of the characters, 
the place where they are, the atmosphere about them, the 
feeling of the time of day. Joyce had already, in "A Por- 
trait of the Artist," experimented, as Proust had done, in 
varying the form and style of the different sections to fit 
the different ages and phases of his hero from the infan- 
tile fragments of childhood impressions, through the ec- 
static revelations and the terrifying nightmares of adoles- 
cence, to the self-possessed notations of young manhood. 
But in "A Portrait of the Artist," Joyce was presenting 
everything from the point of view of a single particular 
character, Dedalus; whereas in "Ulysses" he is occupied 
with a number of different personalities, of whom Deda- 
lus is no longer the centre, and his method, furthermore, 



of enabling us to live in their world is not always merely 
a matter of making us shift from the point of view of one 
to the point of view of another. In order to understand 
what Joyce is doing here, one must conceive a set of Sym- 
bolistic poems, themselves involving characters whose 
minds are represented Symbolistically, depending not 
from the sensibility of the poet speaking in his own per- 
son, but from the poet's imagination playing a role abso- 
lutely impersonal and always imposing upon itself all the 
Naturalistic restrictions in regard to the story it is telling 
at the same time that it allows itself to exercise all the 
Symbolistic privileges in regard to the way it tells it. We 
are not likely to be prepared for this by the early episodes 
of "Ulysses": they are as sober and as clear as the morning 
light of the Irish coast in which they take place: the charac- 
ters' perceptions of the external world are usually distinct 
from their thoughts and feelings about them. But in the 
newspaper office, for the first time, a general atmosphere 
begins to be created, beyond the specific minds of the char- 
acters, by a punctuation of the text with newspaper heads 
which announce the incidents in the narrative. And in the 
library scene, which takes place in the early afternoon, the 
setting and people external to Stephen begin to dissolve 
in his apprehension of them, heightened and blurred by 
some drinks at lunch-time and by the intellectual excite* 
ment of the conversation amid the dimness and tamenes? 
of the library "Eglintoneyes, quick with pleasure, looked 
up shybrightly. Gladly glancing, a merry puritan, through 
the twisted eglantine/' Here, however, we still see all 



through Stephen's eyes through the eyes of a single char- 
acter; but in the scene in the Ormond Hotel, which takes 
place a couple of hours later our reveries absorb the 
world about us progressively as daylight fades and as the 
impressions of the day accumulate the sights and sounds 
and the emotional vibrations and the appetites for food 
and drink of the late afternoon, the laughter, the gold- 
and-bronze hair of the barmaids, the jingling of Blazes 
Boylan's car on his way to visit Molly Bloom, the ringing 
of the hoofs of the horses of the viceregal cavalcade clang- 
ing in through the open window, the ballad sung by Si- 
mon Dedalus, the sound of the piano accompaniment and 
the comfortable supper of Bloom though they are not all, 
from beginning to end, perceived by Bloom himself all 
mingle quite un-Naturalistically in a harmony of bright 
sound, ringing color, poignant indistinct feeling and de- 
clining light. The scene in the brothel, where it is night 
and where Dedalus and Bloom are drunk, is like a slowed- 
up moving-picture, in which the intensified vision of re- 
ality is continually lapsing into phantasmagoric visions; 
and the let-down after the excitement of this, the lassitude 
and staleness of the cabmen's shelter where Bloom takes 
Stephen to get him some coffee, is rendered by a prose as 
flavorless, as weary and as banal as the incidents which it 
reports. Joyce has achieved here, by different methods, a 
relativism like that of Proust: he is reproducing in litera- 
ture the different aspects, the different proportioris and 
textures, which things and people take on at different 
times and under different circumstances, 




I do not think that Joyce has been equally successful 
with all these technical devices in "Ulysses'*; but before it 
will be possible to discuss them further, we must approach 
the book from another point of view. 

It has always been characteristic of Joyce to neglect ac- 
tion, narrative, drama, of the usual kind, even the direct 
impact on one another of the characters as we get it in the 
ordinary novel, for a sort of psychological portraiture. 
There is tremendous vitality in Joyce, but very little move- 
ment. Like Proust, he is symphonic rather than narrative. 
His fiction has its progressions, its developments, but they 
are musical rather than dramatic. The most elaborate and 
interesting piece in "Dubliners" the story called "The 
Dead" is simply a record of the modification brought 
about during a single evening in the relations of a hus- 
band and wife by the man's becoming aware, from the ef- 
fect produced on the woman by a song which she has 
heard at a family party, that she has once, been loved by 
another man; "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" 
is simply a series of pictures of the author at successive 
stages of his development; the theme of "Exiles" is, like 
that of "The Dead," the modification in the relations of a 
husband and wife which follows the reappearance of a 
man who has been the wife's lover. And "Ulysses," again, 
for all its vast scale, is simply the story of another small 
but significant change in the relations of yet another mar- 



ed couple as a result of the impingement on their house- 
old of the personality of an only slightly known young 
lan. Most of these stories cover a period of only a few 
ours, and they are never carried any further. When Joyce 
as explored one of these situations, when he has estab- 
shed the small gradual readjustment, he has done all that 
iterests him. 

All, that is, from the point of view of ordinary incident, 
ut though Joyce almost entirely lacks appetite for vio- 
nt conflict or vigorous action, his work is prodigiously 
ch and alive. His force, instead of following a line, ex- 
ands itself in every dimension (including that of Time) 
Dout a single point. The world of "Ulysses" is animated 
y a complex inexhaustible life: we revisit it as we do a 
ty, where we come more and more to recognize faces, 
> understand personalities, to grasp relations, currents and 
iterests. Joyce has exercised considerable technical in- 
cnuity in introducing us to the elements of his story in an 
rder which will enable us to find our bearings: yet I 
oubt whether any human memory is capable, on a first 
wading, of meeting the demands of "Ulysses." And when 
r e reread it, we start in at any point, as if it were indeed 
>mething solid like a city which actually existed in space 
id which could be entered from any direction as Joyce 

said, in composing his books, to work on the different 
arts simultaneously. More than any other work of fiction, 
nless perhaps the "Comedie Humaine," "Ulysses" creates 
ic illusion of a living social organism. We see it only for 
arenty hours, yet we know its past as well as its present. 



We possess Dublin, seen, heard, smelt and felt, brooded 
over, imagined, remembered. 

Joyce's handling of this immense material, his method 
of giving his book a shape, resembles nothing else in 
modern fiction. The first critics of "Ulysses" mistook the 
novel for a "slice of life" and objected that it was too 
fluid or too chaotic. They did not recognize a plot be- 
cause they could not recognize a progression; and the 
title told them nothing. They could not even discover a 
pattern. It is now apparent, however, that "Ulysses" suf- 
fers from an excess of design rather than from a lack of 
it. Joyce has drawn up an outline of his novel, of which 
he has allowed certain of his commentators to avail them- 
selves, but which he has not allowed them to publish in 
its entirety (though it is to be presumed that the book on 
"Ulysses" which Mr. Stuart Gilbert has announced will 
include all the information contained in it); and from 
this outline it appears that Joyce has set himself the task 
of fulfilling the requirements of a most complicated 
scheme a scheme which we could scarcely have divined 
except in its more obvious features. For even if we had 
known about the Homeric parallel and had identified 
certain of the correspondences if we had had no diffi- 
culty in recognizing the Cyclops in the ferocious pro- 
fessional Fenian or Circe in the brothel-keeper or Hades 
in the cemetery we should never have suspected how 
closely and how subtly the parallel had been followed 
we should never have guessed, for example, that when 
Bloom passes through the National Library while Stephen 



is having his discussion with the literary men, he is escap- 
ing, on the one hand, a Scylla that is, Aristotle, the rock 
of Dogma; and, on the other, a Charybdis Plato, the 
whirlpool of Mysticism; nor that, when Stephen walks 
on the seashore, he is reenacting the combat with Proteus 
in this case, primal matter, of whose continual trans- 
formations Stephen is reminded by the objects absorbed 
or washed up by the sea, but whose forms he is able to 
hold and fix, as the Homeric Proteus was held and van- 
quished, by power of the words which give him images 
for them. Nor should we have known that the series 
of phrases and onomatopoetic syllables placed at the 
beginning of the Sirens episode the singing in the Or- 
mond Hotel and selected from the narrative which fol- 
lows, are supposed to be musical themes and that the epi- 
sode itself is a fugue; and though we may have felt the 
ironic effect of the specimens of inflated Irish journalism 
introduced at regular intervals in the conversation with 
the patriot in the pub we should hardly have understood 
that these had been produced by a deliberate technique 
of "gigantism" for, since the Citizen represents the Cy- 
clops, and since the Cyclops was a giant, he must be ren- 
dered formidable by a parade of all the banalities of his 
patriotic claptrap swollen to gigantic proportions. We 
should probably never have guessed all this, and we 
should certainly never have guessed at the ingenuity 
which Joyce has expended in other ways. Not only, we 
learn from the outline, is there an elaborate Homeric 
parallel in "Ulysses," but there is also an organ of the hu- 



man body and a human science or art featured in every 
episode. We look these up, a little incredulously, but 
there, we find, they all actually are buried and dis- 
guised beneath the realistic surface, but carefully planted, 
unmistakably dwelt upon. And if we are tipped off, we 
are able further to discover all sorts of concealed orna- 
ments and emblems: in the chapter of the Lotos-Eaters, 
for example, countless references to flowers; in the Lae- 
strygonians, to eating; in the Sirens, puns on musical 
terms; and in ^Eolus, the newspaper office, not merely 
many references to wind but, according to Mr. Gilbert 
the art featured in this episode being Rhetoric some hun- 
dred different figures of speech. 

Now the Homeric parallel in "Ulysses" is in general 
pointedly and charmingly carried out and justifies itself: 
it does help to give the story a universal significance and 
it enables Joyce to show us in the actions and the rela- 
tions of his characters meanings which he perhaps could 
not easily have indicated in any other way since the 
characters themselves must be largely unaware of these 
meanings and since Joyce has adopted the strict objective 
method, in which the author must not comment on the 
action. And we may even accept the arts and sciences and 
the organs of the human body as making the book com- 
plete and comprehensive, if a little laboriously systematic 
the whole of man's experience in a day. But when we 
get all these things together and further complicated by 
the virtuosity of the technical devices, the result is some- 
times baffling or confusing. We become aware, as we ex- 



amine the outline, that when we went through "Ulysses" 
for the first time, it was these organs and arts and sciences 
and Homeric correspondences which sometimes so dis- 
couraged our interest. We had been climbing over these 
obstacles without knowing it, in our attempts to follow 
Dedalus and Bloom. The trouble was that, beyond the 
ostensible subject and, as it were, beneath the surface of 
the narrative, too many other subjects and too many dif- 
ferent orders of subjects were being proposed to our at- 

It seems to me difficult, then, not to conclude that Joyce 
elaborated "Ulysses" too much that he tried to put too 
many things into it. What is the value of all the references 
to flowers in the Lotos-Eaters chapter, for example ? They 
do not create in the Dublin streets an atmosphere of 
lotus-eating we are merely puzzled, if we have not been 
told to look for them, as to why Joyce has chosen to 
have Bloom think and see certain things, of which the 
final explanation is that they are pretexts for mentioning 
flowers. And do not the gigantic interpolations of the 
Cyclops episode defeat their object by making it impos- 
sible for us to follow the narrative? The interpolations 
are funny in themselves, the incident related is a master- 
piece of language and humor, the idea of combining 
them seems happy, yet the effect is mechanical and an- 
noying: in the end we have to read the whole thing 
through, skipping the interpolations, in order to find out 
what has happened. The worst example of the capacities 
for failure of this too synthetic, too systematic, method 
seems to me the scene in the maternity hospital. I have 



described above what actually takes place there as I have 
worked it out, after several readings and in the light of 
Joyce's outline. The Oxen of the Sun are "Fertility" 
the crime committed against them is "Fraud." But, not 
content with this, Joyce has been at pains to fill the epi- 
sode with references to real cattle and to include a long 
conversation about bulls. As for the special technique, it 
seems to me in this case not to have any real appropriate- 
ness to the situation, but to have been dictated by sheer 
fantastic pedantry: Joyce describes his method here as 
"embryonic," in conformity to the subject, maternity, 
and the chapter is written as a series of parodies of Eng- 
lish literary styles from the bad Latin of the early chroni- 
cles up through Huxley and Carlyle, the development of 
the language corresponding to the growth of the child in 
the womb. Now something important takes place in this 
episode the meeting between Dedalus and Bloom and 
an important point is being made about it. But we miss the 
point because it is all we can do to follow what is happen- 
ing at the drinking-party, itself rather a confused affair, 
through the medium of the language of the Morte d' Ar- 
thur, the seventeenth-century diaries, the eighteenth- 
century novels, and a great many other kinds of litera- 
ture in which we are not prepared at the moment to be 
interested. If we pay attention to the parodies, we miss the 
story; and if we try to follow the story, we are unable 
to appreciate the parodies. The parodies have spoiled the 
story; and the necessity of telling the story through them 
has taken most of the life out of the parodies. 
Joyce has as little respect as Proust for the capacities of 



the reader's attention; and one feels, in Joyce's case as in 
Proust's, that the longueurs which break our backs, the 
mechanical combinations of elements which fail to coa- 
lesce, are partly a result of the effort of a supernormally 
energetic mind to compensate by piling things up for an 
inability to make them move. 

We have now arrived, in the maternity hospital, at the 
climactic scenes of the story, and Joyce has bogged us as 
he has never bogged us before. We shall forget the Oxen 
of the Sun in the wonderful night-town scene which 
follows it but we shall be bogged afterwards worse than 
ever in the interminable let-down of the cabman's shelter 
and in the scientific question-and-answer chapter which 
undertakes to communicate to us through the most opaque 
and uninviting medium possible Dedalus's conversation 
with Bloom. The night-town episode itself and Mrs. 
Bloom's soliloquy, which closes the book, are, of course, 
among the best things in it but the relative proportions 
of the other three latter chapters and the jarring effect 
of the pastiche style sandwiched in with the straight 
Naturalistic seem to me artistically absolutely indefensi- 
ble. One can understand that Jo} je may have intended the 
colorless and tiresome episodes to set off the rich and vivid 
ones, and also that it is of the essence of his point of view 
to represent the profoundest changes of our lives as be- 
ginning naturally between night and morning without 
the parties' appreciating their importance at the time; 
but a hundred and sixty-one more or less deliberately 
tedious pages are too heavy a dead weight for even the 



brilliant flights of the other hundred and ninety-nine 
pages to carry. Furthermore, Joyce has here half -buried his 
story under the virtuosity of his technical devices. It is 
almost as if he had elaborated it so much and worked over 
it so long that he had forgotten, in the amusement of writ- 
ing parodies, the drama which he had originally intended 
to stage; or as if he were trying to divert and overwhelm 
us by irrelevant entertainments and feats in order that 
we might not be dissatisfied with the flatness except for 
the drunken scene of Dedalus's final meeting with 
Bloom; or even perhaps as if he did not, after ail, quite 
want us to understand his story, as if he had, not quite 
conscious of what he was doing, ended by throwing up 
between us and it a fortification of solemn burlesque 
prose as if he were shy and solicitous about it, and 
wanted to protect it from us. 


Yet even these episodes to which I have objected con- 
tribute something valuable to "Ulysses." In the chapter of 
parodies, for example, Joyce seems to be saying to us: 
"Here are specimens of the sort of thing that man has 
written about himself in the past how naive or preten- 
tious they seem! I have broken through these assumptions 
and pretences and shown you how he must recognize 
himself to-day." And in the question-and-answer chapter, 
which is written entirely from the conventional point of 
view of science and where we are supplied with every 
possible physical, statistical, biographical and astronomi- 



cal fact about Stephen's visit to Bloom: "This is all that 
the twentieth-century man thinks he knows about him- 
self and his universe. Yet how mechanical and rigid this 
reasoning seems when we apply it to Molly and Bloom 
how inadequate to explain them!" 

For one of the most remarkable features of "Ulysses" 
is its interest as an investigation into the nature of human 
consciousness and behavior. Its importance from the point 
of view of psychology has never, it seems to me, been 
properly appreciated though its influence on other books 
and, in consequence, upon our ideas about ourselves, has 
already been profound. Joyce has attempted in "Ulysses" 
to render as exhaustively, as precisely and as directly as it 
is possible in words to do, what our participation in life is 
like or rather, what it seems to us like as from moment 
to moment we live. In order to make this record com- 
plete, he has been obliged to disregard a number of con- 
ventions of taste which, especially in English-speaking 
countries, have in modern times been pretty strictly ob- 
served, even by the writers who have aimed to be most 
scrupulously truthful Joyce has studied what we are ac- 
customed to consider the dirty, the trivial and the base 
elements in our lives with the relentlessness of a modern 
psychologist; and he has also what the contemporary 
Naturalist has seldom been poet enough for done justice 
to all those elements in our lives which we have been in 
the habit of describing by such names as love, nobility, 
truth and beauty. It is curious to reflect that a number of 
critics including, curiously enough, Arnold Bennett 



should have found Joyce misanthropic. Flaubert is mis- 
anthropic, if you like and in reproducing his technique, 
Joyce sometimes suggests his acrid tone. But Stephen, 
Bloom and Mrs. Bloom are certainly not either unamiable 
or unattractive and for all their misfortunes and short- 
comings, they inspire us with considerable respect. Stephen 
and Bloom are played off a little against the duller and 
meaner people about them; but even these people can 
scarcely be said to be treated with bitterness, even when, 
as in the case of Buck Mulligan or the elder Dedalus, 
Stephen's feeling about them is bitter. Joyce is remarkable, 
rather, for equanimity: in spite of the nervous intensity 
of "Ulysses," there is a real serenity and detachment be- 
hind it we are in the presence of a mind which has much 
in common with that of a certain type of philosopher, 
who in his effort to understand the causes of things, to 
interrelate the different elements of the universe, has 
reached a point where the ordinary values of good and 
bad, beautiful and ugly, have been lost in the excellence 
and beauty of transcendent understanding itself. 

I believe that the first readers of "Ulysses" were shocked, 
not merely by Joyce's use of certain words ordinarily ex- 
cluded to-day from English literature, but by his way of 
representing those aspects of human nature which we 
tend to consider incongruous as intimately, inextricably 
mingled. Yet the more we read "Ulysses," the more we are 
convinced of its psychological truth, and the more we are 
amazed at Joyce's genius in mastering and in presenting, 
not through analysis or generalization, but by the corn- 



plete recreation of life in the process of being lived, the 
relations of human beings to their environment and to 
each other; the nature of their perception of what goes 
on about them and of what goes on within themselves; 
and the interdependence of their intellectual, their physi* 
cal, their professional and their emotional lives. To have 
traced all these interdependences, to have given each of 
these elements its value, yet never to have lost sight of the 
moral through preoccupation with the physical, nor to 
have forgotten the general in the particular; to have ex- 
hibited ordinary humanity without either satirizing it or 
sentimentalizing it this would already have been suffi- 
ciently remarkable; but to have subdued all this mate- 
rial to the uses of a supremely finished and disciplined 
work of art is a feat which has hardly been equalled in 
the literature of our time. 

In Stephen's diary in "A Portrait of the Artist," we find 
this significant entry apropos of a poern by Yeats: "Mi- 
chael Robartes remembers forgotten beauty and, when 
his arms wrap her round, he presses in his arms the 
loveliness which has long faded from the world. Not 
this. Not at all. I desire to press in my arms the loveliness 
which has not yet come into the world/' 

And with "Ulysses," Joyce has brought into literature a 
new and unknown beauty. Some readers have regretted 
the extinction in the later Joyce of the charming lyric poet 
of his two little books of poems and the fin de stide prose 
writer of the fin dc sitclc phases of "A Portrait of the 
Artist as a Young Man" (both the prose and verse of the 



early Joyce showed the influence of Yeats). This poet 
is still present in "Ulysses": "Kind air defined the coigns 
of houses in Kildare Street. No birds. Frail from the 
housetops two plumes of smoke ascended, pluming, and 
in a flaw of softness softly were blown." But the con- 
ventions of the romantic lyric, of "aesthetic" fin dc sfecle 
prose, even of the aesthetic Naturalism of Flaubert, can no 
longer, for Joyce, be made to accommodate the reality of 
experience. The diverse elements of experience are per- 
ceived in different relations and they must be differently 
represented. Joyce has found for this new vision a new 
language, but a language which, instead of diluting or 
doing violence to his poetic genius, enables it to assimilate 
more materials, to readjust itself more completely and 
successfully than that of perhaps any other poet of our 
age to the new self-consciousness of the modern world. 
But in achieving this, Joyce has ceased to write verse. I 
have suggested, in connection with Valery and Eliot, that 
verse itself as a literary medium is coming to be used for 
fewer and fewer and for more and more special pur- 
poses, and that it may be destined to fall into disuse. And 
it seems to me that Joyce's literary development is a strik- 
ing corroboration of this view. His prose works have an 
artistic intensity, a definitive beauty of surface and of 
form, which make him comparable to the great poets 
rather than to most of the great novelists. 

Joyce is indeed really the great poet of a new phase 
of the human consciousness. Like Proust's or Whitehead's 
or Einstein's world, Joyce's world is always changing as it 



is perceived by different observers and by them at different 
times. It is an organism made up of "events," which may 
be taken as infinitely inclusive or infinitely small and each 
of which involves all the others; and each of these events 
is unique. Such a world cannot be presented in terms of 
such artificial abstractions as have been conventional in 
the past: solid institutions, groups, individuals, which play 
the parts of distinct durable entities or even of solid psy- 
chological factors: dualisms of good and evil, mind and 
matter, flesh and spirit, instinct and reason; clear con- 
flicts between passion and duty, between conscience and 
interest. Not that these conceptions are left out of Joyce's 
world: they are all there in the minds of the characters; 
and the realities they represent are there, too. But every- 
thing is reduced to terms of "events" like those of modern 
physics and philosophy events which make up a "con- 
tinuum," but which may be taken as infinitely small. 
Joyce has built out of these events a picture, amazingly 
lifelike and living, of the everyday world we know 
and a picture which seems to allow us to see into it, to 
follow its variations and intricacies, as we have never been 
able to do before. 

Nor are Joyce's characters merely the sum of the parti- 
cles into which their experience has been dissociated: we 
come to imagine them as solidly, to feel their personali- 
ties as unmistakably, as we do with any characters in fic- 
tion; and we realize finally that they are also symbols. 
Bloom himself is in one of his aspects the typical modern 
man: Joyce has made him a Jew, one supposes, partly in or- 



der that he may be conceived equally well as an inhabitant 
of any provincial city of the European or Europeanized 
world. He makes a living by petty business, he leads the 
ordinary middle-class life and he holds the conventional 
enlightened opinions of the time: he believes in science, 
social reform and internationalism. But Bloom is surpassed 
and illuminated from above by Stephen, who represents 
the intellect, the creative imagination; and he is upheld 
by Mrs. Bloom, who represents the body, the earth. Bloom 
leaves with us in the long run the impression that he is 
something both better and worse than either of them; 
for Stephen sins through pride, the sin of the intellect; 
and Molly is at the mercy of the flesh; but Bloom, though 
a less powerful personality than either, has the strength 
of humility. It is difficult to describe the character of 
Bloom as Joyce finally makes us feel it: it takes precisely 
the whole of "Ulysses" to put him before us. It is not 
merely that Bloom is mediocre, that he is clever, that he is 
commonplace that he is comic, that he is pathetic that 
he is, as Rebecca West says, a figure of abject "squat- 
ting" vulgarity, that he is at moments, as Foster Damon 
says, the Christ he is all of these, he is all the possibilities 
of that ordinary humanity which is somehow not so ordi- 
nary after all; and it is the proof of Joyce's greatness that, 
though we recognize Bloom's perfect truth and typical 
character, we cannot pigeonhole him in any familiar 
category, racial, social, moral, literary or even because 
he does really have, after all, a good deal in common 
witb the Greek Ulysses historical, 



Both Stephen and Molly are more easily describable 
because they represent extremes. Both are capable of ris- 
ing to heights which Bloom can never reach. In Stephen's 
rhapsody on the seashore, when he first realizes his artist's 
vocation, in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," 
we have had the ecstasy of the creative mind. In the solilo- 
quy of Mrs. Bloom, Joyce has given us another ecstasy of 
creation, the rhapsody of the flesh. Stephen's dream was 
conceived in loneliness, by a drawing apart from his fel- 
lows. But Mrs. Bloom is like the earth, which gives the 
same life to all: she feels a maternal kinship with all liv- 
ing creatures. She pities the "poor donkeys slipping half 
asleep" in the steep street of Gibraltar, as she does "the 
sentry in front of the governor's house . . . half roasted" 
in the sun; and she gives herself to the bootblack at the 
General Post Office as readily as to Professor Goodwin. 
But, none the less, she will tend to breed from the highest 
type of life she knows: she turns to Bloom, and, beyond 
him, toward Stephen. This gross body, the body of hu- 
manity, upon which the whole structure of "Ulysses" 
rests still throbbing with so strong a rhythm amid ob- 
scenity, commonness and squalor is laboring to throw 
up some knowledge and beauty by which it may tran- 
scend itself. 

These two great flights of the mind carry off all the 
ignominies and trivialities through which Joyce has made 
us pass: they seem to me the soaring silver prose of the 
one, the deep embedded pulse of the other among the 
supreme expressions in literature of the creative powers 



of humanity: they arc, respectively, the justifications of 
the woman and the man. 

Since finishing "Ulysses," Joyce has been engaged upon 
another work, about half of which has been published in 
the transatlantic monthly, Transition. It is not possible 
to judge this book properly in the imperfect form in 
which it has appeared. It is intended as a sort of comple- 
ment to "Ulysses"; Joyce has explained that, as "Ulysses" 
deals with the day and with the conscious mind, so his 
new work is to deal with the night and with the subcon- 
scious. The whole book is apparently to occupy itself with 
the single night's sleep of a single character. Joyce has 
already exhibited in "Ulysses" a unique genius for the 
representation of special psychological states: I know of 
nothing else in literature, for example, like the drunken 
night-town scene, with its astounding recreation of all the 
deliriums, dazes, gibberings, exaltations and hallucinations 
of drunkenness. And Joyce's method of rendering the 
phases of sleep is similar to his methods in the Circe epi- 
sode. But he is here attempting something even more 
difficult, and his way of doing it raises an important ques- 
tion in regard to all Joyce's later work. Joyce, as I have 
said, always nowadays represents the consciousness of his 
characters directly: but his method of representing con- 
sciousness is to let you overhear his characters talking to 
themselves. Joyce's people think and feel exclusively in 



terms of words, for Joyce himself thinks in terms of 
words. This is partly due, no doubt, to his defective eye- 
sight, which of late years has become so serious as to 
make it difficult for him to work. There is an interesting 
passage in "A Portrait of the Artist" in which Joyce him- 
self discusses this aspect of his writing: 

"He drew forth a phrase from his treasure and spoke it 
softly to himself: 

" A day of dappled seaborne clouds. 

"The phrase and the day and the scene harmonized in 
a chord. Words. Was it their colors ? He allowed them to 
glow and fade, hue after hue: sunrise gold, the russet and 
green of apple orchards, azure of waves, the greyfringed 
fleece of clouds. No, it was not their colors: it was the 
poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the 
rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associa- 
tions of legend and color ? Or was it that, being as weak 
of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from 
the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the 
prism of a language many colored and richly storied than 
from the contemplation of an inner world of individual 
emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic 

And in "Ulysses" we hear the characters far more 
plainly than we see them: Joyce supplies us with descrip- 
tions of them in sparse, scrupulous phrases, one trait here, 
another there. But the Dublin of "Ulysses" is a city of 
voices. Who has a clear idea of how Bloom or Molly 
Bloom looks? and should we have a clear idea of Ste- 



phcn if we had never seen photographs of Joyce? But 
their eternally soliloquizing voices become our intimate 
companions and haunt us long afterwards. 

Joyce already seems sometimes, in "Ulysses," to go a 
little beyond the probabilities in the vocabulary which he 
allows Bloom to command. When Bloom, in the drunken 
scene, for example, imagines himself giving birth to "eight 
male yellow and white children," all "with valuable 
metallic faces" and each with "his name printed in 
legible letters on his shirt-front: Nasodoro, Goldfinger, 
Chrysostomos, Maindoree, Silversmile, Silberselber, Vi* 
fargent, Panargyros" we have difficulty in believing that 
he would have been learned enough for this. Yet I do not 
suppose that Joyce means us to think of Bloom as actually 
formulating these words in his mind: it is the author's 
way of conveying in words a vision which on the part of 
Bloom must have been a good deal less distinct, or at least 
a good deal less literary, than this. Now, in his new book, 
Joyce has tried to make his hero express directly in words, 
again, states of mind which do not usually in reality make 
use of words at all for the subconscious has no language 
the dreaming mind does not usually speak and when 
it does, it is more likely to express itself in the looking- 
glass language of "Jabberwocky" than in anything resem- 
bling ordinary speech. Joyce's attempts to write the lan- 
guage of dreams have a good deal in common with those 
of Lewis Carroll; but the difference between his new 
novel and the Alice books is that, whereas in the Alice 
books it is the author who is supposed to be telling in 



straight English the adventures which his heroine thinks 
she is having and the literary language peculiar to dreams 
appears only in a poem which she reads, in Joyce's book 
he is plunging us directly into the consciousness of the 
dreamer itself, which is presented, without explanations 
by the author, entirely in the Jabberwocky language. The 
book is thus more easily comprehensible to literary people 
than to people who are not "word-minded,'' whose minds 
do not habitually breed words in response to sensations, 
emotions and thoughts. Yet it is worth making the effort 
to understand, because what Joyce is trying to do is both 
artistically and psychologically extremely interesting, and 
it may be that he will turn out to have written the most 
remarkable piece of dream-literature in existence. 

The best way to understand Joyce's method is to note 
what goes on in one's own mind when one is just drop- 
ping off to sleep. Images or words, if one thinks in words 
like Joyce which were already in the conscious mind will 
suddenly acquire an ominous significance which has noth- 
ing to do with their ordinary functions; some vivid inci- 
dent which may have taken place just before one went to 
bed will begin to swell with a meaning, an emotion, 
which at first we do not recognize because it has come up 
from the submerged part of the mind and is attempting 
to pass itself off in the clothes of an immediate experience 
because it is dissociated from the situation out of which 
it originally arose. Or conversely, one may rid oneself of a 
troublesome abstract idea with which one has been pre- 
occupied by allowing it to transform itself into some in* 



nocuous concrete image more easily dismissed from the 
attention: the page of a philosophical book, for example, 
where one had been continually stumbling over phrases 
and terms may vanish on the threshold of sleep in the 
guise of a spotted man, the spots having substituted them- 
selves for the impenetrable words and phrases. And so 
the images which our waking mind would keep distinct 
from one another incongruously mix in our sleep with an 
effect of perfect congruity. A single one of Joyce's sen- 
tences, therefore, will combine two or three different 
meanings two or three different sets of symbols; a single 
word may combine two or three. Joyce has profited, in 
inventing his dream-language, by Freud's researches into 
the principles which govern the language actually spo- 
ken in dreams: certain people, it appears, do make up 
"portmanteau-words" in their sleep; but we are not, I take 
it, to suppose that Joyce's hero necessarily frames all these 
sentences to himself. Except when he dreams he is reading 
something or carrying on a conversation, the language is 
merely a literary equivalent for sleeping states not even 
articulate in fancy. Nor are we to assume that Joyce's 
sleeper is actually master of all the languages or under- 
stands all the allusions of which Joyce makes him avail 
himself in his dream. We are now at a level below par- 
ticularized languages we are in the region whence all 
languages arise and where the impulses to all acts have 
their origin. 

The hero of the night's sleep in question is, we gather, 
a man named H. C. Earwicker, a Norwegian or descen- 



dant of Norwegians, living in Dublin. He seems to have 
attempted a number of occupations to have been a post- 
man, to have worked in Guiness's Brewery, to have kept 
a hotel and a shop. He is married and has children, but 
has apparently been carrying on a flirtation with a girl 
named Anna Livia. This, along with other lapses from 
respectability associated with it in his mind, troubles his 
conscience and his repose. We are introduced, at the very 
beginning, into Earwicker's drowsing consciousness, and 
we have to make what we can of the names, the shapes, 
and above all, of the voices, which fill that dim and shift- 
ing world they combine and recombine, they are always 
changing into one another but as we go on, we find 
the same themes recurring and we begin to be able to 
understand them in relation to one another we become 
familiar with the character of Earwicker we begin to 
guess at his condition and history. We identify Maggie 
and the children, the house in which they live, the four 
old men with the donkey, Earwicker's drunken mis- 
demeanors and his fear of being caught by the police, the 
washerwomen gathering up their washing, Anna Livia 
on the bank of the Liff ey, the Hill of Howth, the tree and 
the stone. But none of these elements is seen clearly or 
objectively they are all aspects, the dramatic projection of 
aspects, of Earwicker himself: men and women, old and 
young, stronger and weaker, river and mountain, tree and 
stone it is the dreamer who speaks or is spoken to, who 
sees or is seen, in all of them. The old men come to admire 
him as he is sleeping on the mountainside, but in a mo- 



ment it is Earwicker himself who is talking about himself; 
or he splits up into two personalities, one of whom bullies 
or accuses the other. He is coming out of a pub into the 
street with a party of drunken companions, many people 
are standing about but the revellers do not care how much 
attention they attract: they egg on one of their number 
to sing but the song turns out to be a recital of all Ear - 
wicker's failures and sins he has proved himself a fool 
and a swindler to the derision of all Dublin, his wife is 
going to read him the Riot Act. Or he sets out very 
sweetly to explain something by a fable of "the Mookse 
and the Gripes": the Mookse comes swaggering up to the 
Gripes, who is hanging on a tree a sort of altercation 
takes place, and it turns into rather a painful reenactmenf 
of one of Earwicker's encounters with the police but 
dusk falls and the washerwomen come out and carry off 
the Mookse and the Gripes, who are now merely two 
pieces of laundry. 

One of the most remarkable parts which have so far ap- 
peared is the allegro conclusion to the first of the four 
long sections which are to make up the completed work. 
(Joyce has allowed it to be published separately in a little 
book called "Anna Livia Plurabelle.") Here the washer- 
women have become identified with the stone and elm on 
the riverbank we hear them gossiping about Anna Livia, 
who is both the girl with whom the hero is in love and 
the river Liffey; and their gossip is the voice of the river 
itself, light, rapid, incessant, almost metrical, now monoto- 
nously running on one note, now impeded and synco- 



pated, out vivaciously, interminably babbling its indistinct 
rigmarole story, half-unearthly, half-vulgarly human, of 
a heroine half-legendary, half-real: 

"Oh tell me all about Anna Livia! I want to hear all 
about Anna Livia. Well, you know Anna Livia ? Yes, of 
course, we all know Anna Livia. Tell me all. Tell me now. 
You'll die when you hear. . . . Tell me, tell me, how cam 
she camlin through all her fellows, the neckar she was, 
the diveline ? Linking one and knocking the next, tapting 
a flank and tipting a jutty and palling in and pietaring out 
and clyding by on her eastway. Waiwhou was the first 
thurever burst? . . . She says herself she hardly knows 
whuon the annals her graveller was, a dynast of Leinster, 
a wolf of the sea, or what he did or how blyth she played 
or how, when, why, where and who oflfon he jumnpad 
her. She was just a young thin pale soft shy slim slip of a 
thing then, sauntering, by silvamoonlake, and he was a 
heavy trudging lurching lieabroad of a Curraghman, 
making his hay for whose sun to shine on, as tough as 
the oaktrees (peats be with them!) used to rustle that time 
down by the dykes of killing Kildare, that forstfellfoss 
with a plash across her. She thought she's sankh neache 
the ground with nymphant shame when he gave her the 
tigris eye!" 

As darkness falls between stone and elm, the voices 
grow husky and vague: 

"And ho! Hey? What all men. Hot? His tittering 
daughters of Whawk ? 

"Can't hear with the waters of. The chittering waters 



of. Flittering bats, fieldmice, bawk talk. Ho! Arc you not 
gone ahome? What Tom Malone? Can't hear with bawk 
of bats, all the liffeying waters of. Ho, talk save us. My 
foos won't moos. I feel as old as yonder elm. A tale told 
of Shaun or Shem ? All Livia's daughtersons. Dark hawks 
hear us. Night! Night! My ho head halls. I feel as heavy as 
yonder stone. Tell me of John or Shaun? Who were 
Shem and Shaun the living sons or daughters of? Night 
now! Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night night! Tell 
me tale of stem or stone. Beside the rivering waters of, 
hitherandthithering waters of. Night!" 

Night is just falling in this first section of the book, 
and the shadow of the past, the memory presumably of 
the day before, darkens the hero's sleep the vulgarities of 
his waking life oppress him and pursue him; but after 
midnight, as dawn approaches, as he becomes dimly aware 
of the first light, the dream begins to brighten and tc 
rise unencumbered. If I am not mistaken, the middle- 
aged Earwicker reverts to the period of his youth, once 
again he is carefree, attractive, well-liked his spirit turns 
refreshed to the new day. Are we to leave him on the verge 
of waking or are we finally to see the fantasies of the 
dream closed down into the commonplace fate which 
we have already been able to divine? 

This new production of Joyce's exaggerates the quali- 
ties we have noted in "Ulysses." There is even less action 
than in "Ulysses." Joyce has set out with certain definite 
themes and the themes are evidently all to have their de- 
velopments, but these developments take a long time. We 



make progress we pass from night to morning and no 
doubt, when the whole book is before us, we shall see that 
some sort of psychological drama has been played out in 
Earwicker's mind but, as we progress, we go round and 
round. And whereas in "Ulysses" there is only one paral- 
lel, in this new book there are a whole set: Adam and 
Eve, Tristan and Isolde, Swift and Vanessa, Cain and 
Abel, Michael and Lucifer, Wellington and Napoleon. 
The multiplication of references does, to be sure, deepen 
and extend the significance of Earwicker: he and Anna 
Livia are the eternal woman and the eternal man, and 
during the early hours of heaviness and horror of Ear- 
wicker's dream, he is an Adam fallen from grace to be 
redeemed, Joyce is said to have announced, with the re- 
newal of the morning light. And it would seem that 
Joyce has provided plausible reasons for the appearance of 
all these personages in his hero's dream: Napoleon and 
Wellington have gotten in by way of the Wellington 
monument in the Phoenix Park, near which one of Ear- 
wicker's misdemeanors has been committed; and Michael 
and Lucifer it appears from the last instalment pub- 
lished, in which Earwicker is partly waked up toward 
morning by the crying of one of his children by a picture 
on the bedroom wall. Yet the effect of the superposition, 
one upon the other, of such a variety of parallels seems 
sometimes less to enrich the book than to give it a mere 
synthetic complication. Joyce is again, we come to the 
conclusion, trying to do too many things at once. The 
style he has invented for his purpose works on the prin- 



ciplc of a palimpsest: one meaning, one set of images, is 
written over another. Now we can grasp a certain number 
of such suggestions simultaneously, but Joyce, with his 
characteristic disregard for the reader, apparently works 
over and over his pages, packing in allusions and puns. 
This appears clearly from the different versions which 
have been published in various places of the Anna Livia 
Pluribelle section (I have given in an appendix three stages 
of the same passage from this). Joyce has improved it in 
making the texture denser, but this enrichment also ob- 
scures the main outlines and somewhat oversolidifies and 
impedes the dim ambiguous fluidity of the dream espe- 
cially when it takes the form of introducing in the final 
version puns on the names of some five hundred rivers. 
And as soon as we are aware of Joyce himself systemati- 
cally embroidering on his text, deliberately inventing puz- 
zles, the illusion of the dream is lost. 

Yet, on the whole, this illusion is created and kept up 
with extraordinary success. There is a curious fascination 
about becoming gradually acquainted with a character 
whom we know only from the inside and from his 
dreams. And without the complications of his vocabulary, 
Joyce would no doubt never be able to paint for us with so 
sensitive and sure a hand the turbid life of that mental 
half-world where the unconscious is merged with the 
conscious as without his machinery of history and myth, 
he would not be able to give his subject any poetic free- 
dom of significance beyond the realistic framework which 
holds it firm. We are to see in H. C, Earwicker Everyman 



(he imagines his initials standing for Here Comes Every- 
body). We are to find in his dream all human pos- 
sibilities for out of that human nature, that psycho- 
logical plasm, which swims dark and deep beneath the 
surface of the meagre words, the limited acts, the special 
mask, of one man's actual daytime career, all history and 
myth have arisen victim and conqueror, lover and be- 
loved, childhood and old age all the forms of human ex- 
perience. And what humor, what imagination, what 
poetry, what psychological wisdom, Joyce has put into 
Earwicker's dream! I have offered the criticisms above 
only tentatively and without assurance: when we come to 
think about what we take at first to be the defects in 
Joyce's work, we find them so closely involved with the 
depth of his thought and the originality of his conception 
that we are obliged to grant them a certain necessity. And 
whatever difficulties we may have with this book in its 
present fragmentary and incomplete state, I feel confident 
that, when we read it as a whole, we shall find, not only 
that it is not unworthy as the snappers at the heels of 
genius have been so eager and prompt to assert of the 
great master of letters who wrote it, but that he is still at 
the height of his power. 




f^ERTRUDE STEIN, born in Allegheny, Pennsyl- 
^-* vania, a student of psychology and medicine who is 
said to have been considered by William James the most 
brilliant woman pupil he had ever had, published in 1909 
a book of fiction called "Three Lives.'' It was brought out 
by a small and obscure publisher and at that time attracted 
little attention, but, loaned from hand to hand, it acquired 
a certain reputation. "Three Lives," which bore on its 
title-page a quotation from Jules Laforgue, was a work of 
what would at that time have been called realism, but it 
was realism of rather a novel kind. The book consisted 
of three long short stories the histories of three women, 
two of them German servant-girls, the other a mulatto 
girl. What is most remarkable in these stories especially 
if we compare them with such a typically Naturalistic 
production as Flaubert's "Un Coeur Simple," in which 
we feel that the old family servant has been seen from a 
great distance and documented with effort is the close- 
ness with which the author has been able to identify her- 
self with her characters. In a style which appears to owe 
nothing to that of any other novelist, she seems to have 
caught the very rhythms and accents of the minds of her 



heroines: we find ourselves sharing the lives of the Good 
Anna and Gentle Lena so intimately that we forget about 
their position and see the world limited to their range, just 
as in Melanctha's case and this is what makes her story 
one of the best as well as one of the earliest attempts of a 
white American novelist to understand the mind of the 
modern Americanized negro we become so immersed in 
Melanctha's world that we quite forget its inhabitants 
are black. And we discover that these histories have a 
significance different from that of ordinary realistic fic- 
tion: Miss Stein is interested in her subjects, not from the 
point of view of the social conditions of which they might 
be taken as representative, but as three fundamental types 
of women: the self-sacrificing Anna, who combines devo- 
tion with domination; the dreamy and passive Lena, for 
whom it is natural to allow herself to be used and effaced 
from life by other lives; and the passionate and complex 
Melanctha, who "was always losing what she had in want- 
ing all the things she saw." Behind the limpid and slightly 
monotonous simplicity of Gertrude Stein's sentences, one 
becomes aware of her masterly grasp of the organisms, 
contradictory and indissoluble, which human personalities 

"Three Lives/' though not widely circulated, exercised 
a considerable influence. Carl Van Vechten wrote about it; 
Eugene O'Neill and Sherwood Anderson read it with 
admiration. It is interesting to note that all three of these 
writers were to occupy themselves later with negro life, in 
regard to which Miss Stein had given an example of an 



attitude not complicated by race-consciousness. And Sher- 
wood Anderson seems to have learned from her, in his 
own even less Naturalistic, even more dreamlike, fiction, 
both his recurrent repetitions with their effect of ballad re- 
frains and his method of telling a story in a series of sim- 
ple declarative sentences of almost primer-like baldness. 
Gertrude Stein's next book was a long novel, "The 
Making of Americans," written between 1906 and 1908, 
but not published till 1925. 1 confess that I have not read 
this book all through, and I do not know whether it is 
possible to do so. "The Making of Americans" runs to al- 
most a thousand large pages of small closely-printed type. 
The first chapters show the same remarkable qualities as 
"Three Lives," though in a somewhat diluted form. Miss 
Stein sets before us the men and women of her German- 
Jewish families with all the strong sense we have already 
admired for the various and irreducible entities of human 
character; and we are made, as we are in "Three Lives," 
to feel life as her people feel it, to take for granted just as 
they do the whole complex of conditions of which they 
are part. But already some ruminative self-hypnosis, some 
progressive slowing-up of the mind, has begun to show 
itself in Miss Stein's work as a sort of fatty degeneration 
of her imagination and style. In "Three Lives," the rhyth- 
mic repetitions were successful in conveying the recur- 
rences, the gradual unwinding of life, and in the dialogue 
they produced the effect of the speech of slow-minded 
people: "I never did use to think I was so much on being 
real modest, Melanctha, but now I know really I am, 



when I hear you talking. I see all the time there are many 
people living just as good as I am, though they are a little 
different to me. Now with you, Melanctha, if I understand 
you right what you are talking, you don't think that way 
of no other one that you are ever knowing/* But, though 
in "The Making of Americans" this sort of thing is ap- 
propriate to the patient and brooding repetitiousness of 
the German-Jewish Americans of the first and second 
generations, it is here carried to such immoderate lengths 
as finally to suggest some technique of mesmerism. With 
sentences so regularly rhythmical, so needlessly prolix, so 
many times repeated and ending so often in present parti- 
ciples, the reader is all too soon in a state, not to follow 
the slow becoming of life, but simply to fall asleep. And 
the further we get, the more difficult we find it to keep our 
mind on what we are reading: Miss Stein abandons alto- 
gether for long stretches any attempt to tell her story by 
reporting what her characters do and say, and resorts to a 
curious abstract vein of generalization: "Some are needing 
themselves being a young one, an older one, a middle aged 
one, an older one, an old one to be ones realizing what any 
one telling about different ways of feeling anything, of 
thinking about anything, of doing anything is meaning 
by what that one is telling. Some are needing themselves 
being a young one, an older one, a middle aged one, an 
older one, an old one to be one being certain that it is a 
different thing inside in one being a young one, from be- 
ing an older one, from being a middle aged one, from be- 
ing an older one, from being an old one," etc., etc. The 



psychological truth is still there, no doubt, but it is in a 
solution of about one percent to the total volume of the 
dose, and the volume of the dose is enormous. 

This repetitious and abstract vein of the last pages of 
"The Making of Americans" persists still in the psycho- 
logical portraits of Picasso and Matisse published in 1912: 
"One was quite certain that for a long part of his being 
one being living he had been trying to be certain that he 
was wrong in doing what he was doing and then when he 
could not come to be certain that he had been wrong in 
doing what he had been doing, when he had completely 
convinced himself that he would not come to be certain 
that he had been wrong in doing what he had been doing 
he was really certain then that he was a great one and he 
certainly was a great one. Certainly every one could be cer- 
tain of this thing that this one is a great one." 

This is queer and very boring, like a good deal of "The 
Making of Americans," but it is still intelligible. A little 
later, however, Miss Stein published privately another 
"portrait" which represented something of a new depar- 
ture. In the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge," she seems to be 
groping for the instinctive movements of the mind which 
underlie the factitious conventional logic of ordinary inter- 
course, and to be trying to convey their rhythms and re- 
flexes through a language divested of its ordinary mean- 

"Tender Buttons," which appeared in 1914 and was the 
first of Miss Stein's books to attract attention, went even 
further than the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" in the direc- 



tion of dislocating words from their meanings. The pieces 
in "Tender Buttons" are in a different vein from anything 
she had published before: she has here given up her 
long rhythms and writes pungently, impressionistically, 
concisely. Miss Stein had by this time gone to live in Paris 
(where she has remained ever since) and had become in- 
terested in the modern French painting of the generation 
of Picasso and Matisse, which she was one of the first to 
appreciate and collect; and the pieces in "Tender But- 
tons" the title was supposed to describe the contents are 
said to have been intended as prose still-lifes to correspond 
to those of such painters as Picasso and Braque. A pat- 
tern of assorted words, though they might make non- 
sense from the traditional point of view, would be analo- 
gous to a Cubist canvas composed of unidentifiable frag- 

"Red Roses. A cool red rose and a pink cut pink, a col- 
lapse and a sold hole, a little less hot. 

"A Sound. Elephant beaten with candy and little pops 
and chews all bolts and reckless rats, this is this. 

"Custard. Custard is this. It has aches, aches when. Not 
to be. Not to be narrowly. This makes a whole little hill. 

"It is better than a little thing that has mellow real 
mellow. It is better than lakes whole lakes, it is better 
than seeing. 

"Chicken. Alas a dirty word, alas a dirty third, alas a 
dirty bird." 

Gertrude Stein is said, at this period, to have made a 
practice of shutting herself up at night and trying utterly 


to banish from her mind all the words ordinarily asso- 
ciated with the ideas she had fixed upon. She had come 
to believe that words had other values than those inherent 
in their actual meanings, and she was attempting to pro- 
duce a kind of literature which should work with these 
values exclusively. 

In "Have They Attacked Mary He Giggled A Politi- 
cal Satire" (1917), she developed, however, still another 
genre, which at least partially left to language its common 
meanings a sort of splintered stenographic commentary 
made up of scraps of conversation as they reverberate in 
the mind and awaken unspoken responses. The volumes of 
miscellaneous pieces which have followed "Geography 
and Plays" (1922) and "Useful Knowledge" (1928) 
contain examples of all her previous styles as well as several 
variations, including a curious kind of "play" which con- 
sists simply of long lists of phrases divided into acts. 
Among these, some of the satires are funny, some of the 
portraits rather interesting and bits of the "abstract" im- 
pressionism charming, and there are one or two really ex- 
cellent short stories such as "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene," 
in which the repetitive rigmarole manner is admirably 
suited to render the monotony and insipidity of the femi- 
nine lives which are being narrated. But most of what 
Miss Stein publishes nowadays must apparently remain 
absolutely unintelligible even to a sympathetic reader. She 
has outdistanced any of the Symbolists in using words for 
pure purposes of suggestion she has gone so far that she 
no longer even suggests. We see the ripples expanding in 



her consciousness, but we are no longer supplied with any 
clew as to what kind of object has sunk there. 


Sometimes these writings of Gertrude Stein make us 
laugh: her humor is perhaps the one of her qualities 
which comes through in her recent books most clearly; 
and I should describe them as amusing nonsense, if "non- 
sense" were not a word which had so often been used in 
derogation both of the original Symbolists and of the con- 
temporary writers dealt with in this book. If I should say 
that Miss Stein wrote nonsense, I might be thought to be 
implying that she was not serious or that she was not ar- 
tistically successful. As a matter of fact, one should not 
talk about "nonsense" until one has decided what "sense" 
consists of and one cannot investigate this without be- 
coming involved in questions which go to the bottom of 
the whole Symbolist theory and throw further light on 
the issues it raises. 

The original Symbolists supposed themselves to be de- 
fending the value of suggestion in literature as against the 
documentation of Naturalism and the logic of rational- 
ism and both they and their opponents seemed to tend 
to take it for granted that the suggestion was all on one 
side and the sense all on the other. We have already noted 
this tendency in Valery, in Eliot and in Yeats, and we 
have stumbled over the difficulties it leads to. Now, as 



a matter of fact, all literature, all writing, all speech, de- 
pends equally upon suggestion; the "meaning" of words 
is what they suggest. Speaking accurately, it is impossible 
to say that one kind of writing suggests, whereas another 
kind proves or states. Any literary work, if it accom- 
plishes its purpose, must superinduce in the reader a 
whole complex of what we are accustomed to call 
thoughts, emotions and sensations a state of conscious- 
ness, a state of mind; it depends for its effectiveness upon 
a web of associations as intricate and in the last analysis 
as mysterious as our minds and bodies themselves. Our 
words themselves are the prime symbols, and the only 
originality of the Symbolists consisted in reminding peo- 
ple of the true nature and function of words. It is of 
course possible to think of words abstractly so that they 
shall seem to have pure definite meanings, but the fact re- 
mains that as soon as we begin to use them, we cannot 
help pouring them full of suggestion by our inflections, 
our pauses, our tones or by their order and collocation on 
the page, and in any case by selecting them in such a way 
as to bring out certain previous associations. 

Let us examine passages from various books, ranging 
from what we should call the most nonsensical to what 
we should call the most rational. Most people, I suppose, 
would grant to-day that it is the business of poetry to sug- 
gest and that it is possible to write very fine poetry which 
is neither logical in the ordinary sense nor true; and most 
people, I suppose, could be persuaded, after a moment or 
two of reflection, that there is really no difference in kind 



between poems like "Kubla Khan" and "Ulalume" and 
poems like "Jabberwocky," "The Jumblies" and "The 
Owl and the Pussycat" (unless it constitutes a difference 
in kind that Lear and Carroll intend to be amusing 
whereas Coleridge and Poe do not) and even to admit 
that this realization should have the effect of making one 
think more highly of Lear and Carroll rather than less 
highly of Coleridge and Poe. But prose the ordinary read- 
er might claim, as we have seen that Paul Valery does, 
ought to convey a "sense." Yet there is a prose which, as 
anyone will recognize, is extremely close to poetry. Take 
one of the passages I have already quoted from Yeats: 

"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but 
of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. Unlike the rhetori- 
cians, who get a confident voice from remembering the 
crowd they have won or may win, we sing amid our un- 
certainty, and, smitten even in the presence of the most 
high beauty by the knowledge of our solitude, our 
rhythm shudders." 

This appears a fairly reasonable statement, yet must we 
not confess, when we come to examine it, that we are 
being moved by beautiful words rather than convinced of 
a psychological fact ? And in Yeats's own mind there is a 
line unmistakably drawn between this kind of prose and 
certain other kinds. In "A Vision," he writes as follows of 
that phase of human personality in his Great Wheel to 
which he assigns Bernard Shaw: "Style exists now but as 
a sign of work well done, a certain energy and precision 
of movement; in the artistic sense it is no longer possible, 



for the tension of the will is too great to allow of sugges- 


From Yeats's point of view, then, the prose of Shaw is 
devoid of suggestion, and, consequently, even of style. Yet 
let us look at a typical passage from "The Intelligent 
Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism," a master- 
piece of prose exposition: 

"Naturally the squires were not disposed to take this de- 
feat lying down. They revenged themselves by taking up 
Lord Shaftesbury's agitation for the Factory Acts, and 
showing that the employer's little finger was thicker than 
the country gentleman's loins; that the condition of the 
factory employees was worse than that of the slaves on 
the American and West Indian plantations; that the worst 
cottages of the worst landlords had at least fresher air 
than the overcrowded slums of the manufacturing towns; 
that if the employers did not care whether their 'hands' 
were Church of England or Methodist, neither did they 
care whether they were Methodists or Atheists, because 
they had no God but Mammon; that if they did not per- 
secute politically it was only because the hands had no 
votes; they persecuted industrially as hard as they could 
by imprisoning Trade Unionists; and that the personal 
and often kindly relations between the peasantry and the 
landlords, the training in good manners and decent 
housekeeping traditions learnt by the women in domestic 
service in the country houses, the kindnesses shown to the 
old and sick on the great estates, were all lost in the squal- 
or and misery, the brutality and blasphemy, the incestu- 



ous overcrowding, and the terrible dirt epidemics in the 
mining and factory populations where English life was 
what the employer's greed had made it." 

If we scrutinize this paragraph on industrial conditions, 
we see at once that it depends as much on suggestion as 
the passage on rhetoric and poetry which has just been 
quoted from Yeats. Yeats suggests a state of mind where 
we are preoccupied with solitude and introspection, 
whereas Shaw suggests a state of mind where we are pre- 
occupied with our relation to society; but that is the only 
diff erence. Shaw wants to turn our attention out, whereas 
Yeats wants to turn it in; but both use words not merely 
to reason but to put a spell on us and excite our emotions. 
What makes the passage by Shaw effective is the belliger- 
ent sound of such homely figures as "showing that the 
employer's little finger was thicker than the country gen- 
tleman's loins" and "because they had no God but Mam- 
mon"; it is the rousing rhythm of the piled-up indict- 
ment. The whole passage is loaded v/ith suggestion from 
beginning to end: the suggestion produced by calling 
harsh names, by violent antithesis, by shifting quickly 
from a picture of horrible conditions to a picture of at* 
tractive ones and then abruptly shifting back to another 
picture more horrible still. 

Let us, however, take another passage from a work 
which makes no claim to be literature, in which in fact 
the utmost effort has been exerted to keep as far away 
from poetry and to make sense as plainly as possible let 
us take a passage from the United States Courts-Martial 
Manual: 248 


"The Army is an emergent arm of the public service 
which the Nation holds ready for a time of great peril. 
Military service is an obligation which every citizen owes 
to the government. It is settled law that such service may 
be compelled, if necessary, by draft. Nor is the obligation 
of the soldier who volunteers for a fixed period different 
from that of the drafted soldier. By his act of volunteer- 
ing he consecrates himself to the military service. His en- 
gagement, supported by an oath of allegiance, is that the 
nation may depend upon him for such service during the 
fixed period, whatever may be the emergency. When this 
engagement is breached a high obligation to the nation is 
disregarded, a solemn oath of allegiance is violated, and 
the government is defrauded in the amount of its outlay 
incident to inducting the soldier into the military service, 
training, clothing and caring for him while he remains in 
that service, and transporting him to the station from 
which he deserts. Desertion is thus seen to be, not simply 
a breach of contract for personal service, but a grave crime 
against the Government; in time of war perhaps the grav- 
est that a soldier can commit, and at such times punisha- 
ble with death/' 

It will be seen that the Courts-Martial Manual also deals 
in metaphors: "The Army is an emergent arm of the pub- 
lic service"; and its cumulative rhythms: "When this en- 
gagement is breached a high obligation to the nation is 
disregarded, a solemn oath of allegiance is violated, and 
the government is defrauded," etc. And the word "death" 
is made to dominate the paragraph by being placed at the 



end of the sentence. The author of the Courts-Martial 
Manual is trying like Bernard Shaw, but even more sin- 
gle-mindedly, to suggest a state of mind in which we shall 
be conscious of ourselves only in our relation to society. 
Now let us turn to a recent piece of Gertrude Stein's: 

Verse I 
Indeed indeed 
Can you sec. 
The stars 

And regularly the precious treasure. 
What do we love without measure. 
We know. 

Verse II 
We suspect the second man. 

Verse III 

We are worthy of everything that happens 
You mean weddings. 
Naturally I mean weddings. 

Verse IV 

And then we are, 
Hail to the nation. 

Verse V 

Do you think we believe it. 

Verse VI 

It is that or bust. 

Verse VII 
We cannot bust. 



Verse VIII 
Thank you. 

Verse IX 
Thank you so much. 

Gertrude Stein is here attempting to convey an impres- 
sion exactly the opposite of the impression which the au- 
thor of the Courts-Martial Manual is aiming at: she and 
he diverge in the same directions as Yeats and Bernard 
Shaw, but they are even farther apart. Miss Stein is trying 
to superinduce a state of mind in which the idea of the 
nation will seem silly, in which we shall be conscious of 
ourselves as creatures who do not lend themselves to that 
conception. Yet the methods by which she accomplishes 
her ends are very similar to those of the author of the 
Manual. Like him, she proceeds by incantation. And "The 
Army is an emergent arm of the public service which the 
Nation holds ready/' etc. is actually as metaphorical as 
Miss Stein's statement, in another recent piece of writing, 
that "toasted Susie is my ice-cream." The Army is not an 
emergent arm of anything: it is a collection of human be- 
ings. The difference between Gertrude Stein and the au- 
thor of the Courts-Martial Manual is entirely a technical 
one: it is a difference simply of syntax and of the order in 
which each evokes his or her selected group of images. 

This discussion would, of course, lead us, if we pursued 
it, to the nature of language itself and hence to the mys- 
teries of human psychology and what we mean when we 
talk about such things as "reason," "emotion," "sensa- 



tion" and "imagination." And this must be left to the 
philosophers, who are largely in the dark about it them- 
selves. But it is well to remember the mysteriousness of the 
states with which we respond to the stimulus of works of 
literature and the primarily suggestive character of the 
language in which these works are written, on any occa- 
sion when we may be tempted to characterize as "non* 
sense," "balderdash" or "gibberish" some new and out- 
landish-looking piece of writing to which we do not hap- 
pen to respond. If other persons say they do respond, and 
derive from doing so pleasure or profit, we must take 
them at their word. 

Gertrude Stein is a singular case in this respect. Widely 
ridiculed and seldom enjoyed, she has yet played an im- 
portant role in connection with other writers who have 
become popular. I have spoken of her influence on Sher- 
wood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway, not only in 
such short stories as "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot" (who recall 
Miss Furr and Miss Skeene), but also in certain passages 
of "The Sun Also Rises" and "A Farewell to Arms," 
where he wants to catch the slow rhythm of time or the 
ominous banality of human behavior in situations of emo- 
tional strain, owes her a similar debt. Most of us balk at 
her soporific rigmaroles, her echolaliac incantations, her 
half-witted-sounding catalogues of numbers; most of us 
read her less and less. Yet, remembering especially her 
early work, we are still always aware of her presence in 
the background of contemporary literature and we pic- 
ture her as the great pyramidal Buddha of Jo Davidson's 



statue of her, eternally and placidly ruminating the grad- 
ual developments of the processes of being, registering the 
vibrations of a psychological country like some august hu- 
man seismograph whose charts we haven't the training to 
read. And whenever we pick up her writings, however 
unintelligible we may find them, we are aware of a liter- 
ary personality of unmistakable originality and distinction. 
Sherwood Anderson, who is so sensitive to her quality, 
has written of it admirably as follows: 

"In the great kitchen of my fanciful world in which I 
[see] Miss Stein standing, there is a most sweet and gra- 
cious aroma. Along the walls are many shining pots and 
pans, and there are innumerable jars of fruits, jellies, and 
preserves. Something is going on in the great room, for 
Miss Stein is a worker in words with the same loving 
touch in her strong fingers that was characteristic of the 
women of the kitchens of the brick houses in the town of 
my boyhood. She is an American woman of the old sort, 
one who cares for the handmade goodies and who scorns 
the factory-made foods, and in her own great kitchen she 
is making something with her materials, something sweet 
to the tongue and fragrant to the nostrils/' 


This may be an appropriate place to mention the sys- 
tematic comic nonsense called Dadaism. There is no need 
to describe it at length I have given in an appendix an 
entertaining history of the Dadaist Movement written in 



1922 by Tristan Tzara, a Rumanian poet, who was per- 
haps its chief promoter. Many of the jokes of the Dadaists 
were pretty bad: a piece of silliness, obscenity or bad taste 
should have spontaneity to carry it off, whereas the antics 
of the Dadaists seem too often deliberately and mechani- 
cally perpetrated by essentially rather humorless young 
men. But it was natural in the Paris of the years immedi- 
ately after the War for the youngest writers to produce a 
literature they intended it as a campaign against litera- 
ture which should aim to set people's teeth on edge. The 
Dadaists were both cynical and hysterical, and their work 
was one of the symptoms of the social, intellectual and 
moral chaos of Europe after the Armistice. The exhaus- 
tion of the resources of life had had the result of render- 
ing desperate and sterile even the youngest generation of 
Frenchmen who had scarcely taken part in the fighting, 
but who had grown up in the atmosphere of the War. 

Dadaism was a queer special development of Sym- 
bolism. The writings of the Dadaists grew directly out of 
the Symbolist tradition, as their hoaxes and practical jokes 
recall the perverse non scquitur capers of Jules Laforgue's 
"Pierrot Fumiste" and Tristan Corbiere's stroll in Rome 
with a mitre, a dress-suit and a pig. The writer, however, 
of the first Symbolist generation whom the Dadaists seem 
most to have admired was a man named Isidore Ducasse, 
the author of the "Chants de Maldoror," who signed him- 
self "Comte de Lautreamont." Ducasse was a Frenchman 
born in Uruguay, who came to Paris in 1867 when he was 
twenty-one and, full of the literature of the Romantics 



from Byron to Baudelaire, composed an immature but 
not unpromising book in which the expression of what 
had become by that time the conventional attitudes of Ro- 
manticism was given a slightly new accent and handled 
in a slightly new way. "Les Chants de Maldoror" is full 
of the familiar ferocities and blasphemies, the familiar 
sombre confessions of uncommon and magnificent sins, 
carried, however, to unprecedented lengths by a young 
writer who evidently felt that his predecessors had set 
him a high standard to surpass; but the images of his 
nightmares and tirades have that peculiar phantasmagoric 
quality which was to be characteristic of Symbolism. Very 
little is known about Ducasse, but he has been identified 
with considerable plausibility with a man of the same sur- 
name, a particularly violent social-revolutionary orator 
who attracted a certain amount of notice at the popular 
meetings authorized by Napoleon III on the eve of the 
Franco-Prussian War. Ducasse was found dead in his 
room one morning, three years after he had come to 
Paris, and there are reasons for believing that he was mur- 
dered by Napoleon's secret police. At any rate, a legendary 
Ducasse, thin, catlike, small and dry, with a shrill grating 
voice and a "tete de decapite," half-buffoon but with a 
demon's energy, hushing crowds with his bloodthirsty 
speeches and dashing down at top speed during his soli- 
tary nights a book of sadistic and scandalous visions, be- 
came the patron saint of Dadaism. 

The Dadaists were themselves, as time went on, to turn 
social-revolutionary: their savage spirit of opposition 


found a new field in political journalism. And, discarding 
the name of Dadaists though still intent on the destruction 
of conventional literature, they took to automatic writing, 
which they called "Surrealisme." 




six writers with whom I have here been con- 
-L cerned represent then a further development of the 
methods and ideals of the Symbolists. These aesthetic 
ideals of Symbolism implied, however, a general point of 
view which was also given a further development by this 
second set of writers. 

"One's great objection to the Symbolist school," writes 
Andre Gide, "is its lack of curiosity about life. With per- 
haps the single exception of Viele-Griffin (and it is this 
that gives his verse so special a savor), all were pessimists, 
renunciants, resignationists, 'tired of the sad hospital* 
which the earth seemed to them our 'monotonous and 
unmerited fatherland,' as Laforgue called it. Poetry had 
become for them a refuge, the only escape from the hide- 
ous realities; they threw themselves into it with a des- 
perate fervor. 

"Divesting life as they did of everything which they 
considered mere vain delusion, doubting whether it were 
'worth living/ it was not astonishing that they should 
have supplied no new ethic contenting themselves with 
that of Vigny, which at most they dressed up in irony- 
but only an aesthetic." 

This ideal of renunciation of the experience of the out 



side world for the experience of the imagination alone, 
this withdrawal of the individual from society, did, how- 
ever, give rise to an attitude quite distinct from the stoi- 
cism of Vigny. It had already been indicated in England 
by Walter Pater: 

"Those childish days of revery," he writes of "Marius 
the Epicurean" (1885), "when he played at priests, played 
in many another day dream, working his way from the 
actual present, as far as he might, with a delightful sense 
of escape in replacing the outer world of other people 
by an inward world as himself really cared to have it, had 
made him a kind of 'idealist.' He was become aware of 
the possibility of a large dissidence between an inward 
and somewhat exclusive world of vivid personal appre- 
hension, and the unimproved, unheightened reality of the 
life of those about him. As a consequence, he was ready 
now to concede, somewhat more easily than others, the 
first point of his new lesson, that the individual is to him- 
self the measure of all things, and to rely on the exclusive 
certainty to himself of his own impressions. To move af- 
terwards in that outer world of other people, as though 
taking it at their estimate, would be possible henceforth 
only as a kind of irony." 

But this doctrine had been preached to that generation 
perhaps most uncompromisingly and emphatically by a 
work of which Yeats has told us that he read it in his 
early manhood "slowly and laboriously as one reads a 
sacred book" and which Lalou, the author of the "His- 
toire de la Litterature Fran^aise Contemporaine," has de* 



scribed as "the Taust' of the later nineteenth century." 
Villiers de lisle-Adam's "Axel," which was published 
in 1890, is a sort of long dramatic poem in prose, which, 
as it was the last thing Villiers wrote, sums up and gives 
final expression to his peculiar idealism. Count Axel of 
Auersburg is a young man "of an admirable virile 
beauty," with "a paleness almost radiant" and "an expres- 
sion mysterious from thought." He inhabits, in an at- 
mosphere half-Wagnerian, half-romantic-Gothic, an an- 
cient and isolated castle in the depths of the Black Forest, 
where he has given himself up to the study of the hermetic 
philosophy of the alchemists and is being prepared by a 
Rosicrucian adept for the revelation of the ultimate mys- 
teries. And this castle entombs its own secret: when Na- 
poleon's armies had menaced Frankfort, the people from 
miles around had brought in gold, jewels and other valu- 
ables to be deposited in the Frankfort National Bank, 
and it had been decided to send the gigantic treasure, 
amounting to three hundred and fifty million dialers, un- 
der an escort headed by Axel's father to a secret place of 
safe-keeping. But certain villainous government officials 
had plotted to murder the Count and possess themselves 
of the treasure, making it appear that he had allowed 
himself to fall into the hands of the French. The Count, 
however, before succumbing to this treachery, has had the 
time to hide the treasure underground somewhere in his 
vast estate, imparting the secret to no one but his wife, 
who has died without divulging it. 
Now, during the winter when the drama opens, a 



cousin of Axel's, the Commander Kaspar, has come to the 
castle and got wind of the treasure. The Commander, who 
declares "I am real life!" is represented as an insufferable 
vulgarian. Axel's life of pure reflection and imagination 
seems to him morbid, unprofitable and empty, and he 
tries to tempt his young cousin away by telling him of 
the glories of the court and the pleasures of amorous con- 
quest; but the fastidious and fiercely proud young Count 
brushes these suggestions politely aside. When, however, 
the Commander comes to touch upon the treasure, which 
he urges Axel to take steps to recover, the young man in- 
stantly summons a servant and orders two swords to be 
brought. He reveals now, in resounding language, his con- 
tempt for the Commander's conceptions of honor and 
pleasure; explains his defiance of and voluntary exile from 
a society which has betrayed and murdered his father; 
asserts his supremacy and his haughty independence in 
the forest fastnesses where he has chosen to dwell; re- 
views at overpowering length the loyal forces he can call 
to his defence; describes impressively the enormous 
masked trenches in which he could cause the mightiest 
armies to be engulfed and in a duel runs the Com- 
mander through. 

In the meantime, however, the secret of the where- 
abouts of the treasure has been discovered in a Book of 
Hours formerly belonging to Axel's mother, by a young 
French noblewoman, who has been put in the convent to 
which the book has passed. This young girl makes a dar- 
ing escape just as the nuns have almost compelled her to 



take the veil, and finds her way to Axel's castle, where he 
offers her a lodging for the night. Sara waits till she 
thinks everybody is asleep, then descends secretly to the 
family tombs in the crypt below the castle. Seeking out 
a certain heraldic death's-head, she presses with the point 
of a dagger a button between its eyes, and from behind 
a sliding panel the treasure comes pouring forth in cata- 
racts of burning gold-pieces, cloud-bursts of pearls and 
diamonds. But in a moment she has become aware that 
Axel has been watching her unnoticed, and whipping 
out two fine pistols of steel, fires them at him one after 
the other only wounding him, however, slightly in the 
chest. Axel seizes her and wrests away her dagger, with 
which she had been preparing to attack him, but she is as 
beautiful as Axel is handsome, and in a moment they 
have fallen in love. 

Sara turns out to be a Rosicrucian, too: her escape from 
the convent has been signalized by the blooming of the 
mystic rose. She and Axel embrace in an ecstasy: for the 
first time, chese two chaste and haughty spirits have found 
objects worthy of their passion. "Say, beloved," breathes 
Sara to Axel, speaking as if in a dream, "wouldst thou 
travel to those lands where the caravans pass in the shade 
of the palm-trees of Cashmir or Mysore ? Wouldst to Ben- 
gal to choose in the bazaars roses, stuffs and Armenian 
maidens as white as the ermine's skin? Wouldst raise 
armies and, like a young Cyaxares, foment rebellion in 
northern Iran? or shall we rather set sail for Ceylon, 
with its white elephants carrying vermilion towers, with 



its fiery macaws in the trees and with its dwellings all 
drenched in sun, where the rain of the fountains falls in 
the marble courts? . . . How delightful to fasten on our 
skates on the roads of pale Sweden! or in the region of 
Christiania, among the dazzling fjords and passes of the 
mountains of Norway!" and so on for four solid pages. 
They are holding the whole world in their hands they 
have love, youth, social position, power, the supernatural 
backing of the Rosicrucian spirits and three hundred and 
fifty million dialers* worth of treasure "all the dreams to 
realize," says Sara. 

But here Axel, "grave and impenetrable," strikes an un- 
expected note. "Why realize them?" he asks. "They are 
so beautiful!" And to her plea of "come and live!" he re- 
plies: "Live? No. Our existence is full and its cup is 
running over! What hour-glass can count the hours of 
this night! The future? . . . Sara, believe me when I say 
it: we have just exhausted the future. All the realities, 
what will they be to-morrow in comparison with the 
mirages we have just lived ? . . . The quality of our hope 
no longer allows us the earth. What can we ask from this 
miserable star where our melancholy lingers on save the 
pale reflections of such moments? The Earth, dost thou 
say ? What has the Earth ever realized, that drop of frozen 
mud, whose Time is only a lie in the heavens ? It is the 
Earth, dost thou not see? which has now become the 
illusion! Admit, Sara: we have destroyed, in our strange 
hearts, the love of life and it is in REALITY indeed that 
ourselves have become our souls. To consent, after this, to 



live would be but sacrilege against ourselves. Live? our 
servants will do that for us. ... Oh, the external world! 
Let us not be made dupes by the old slave, chained to our 
feet in broad daylight, who promises us the keys to a 
palace of enchantments when it clutches only a handful 
of ashes in its clenched black fist! Just now, thou wast 
speaking of Bagdad, of Palmyra, of what was it? 
Jerusalem ? If thou didst but know what a heap of unin- 
habitable stones, what a sterile and burning soil, what 
dens of loathsome creatures, those wretched places in real- 
ity are though they appear to thee all glamorous with 
memories far away in that imaginary Orient which thou 
carriest within thyself! And what sad weariness the mere 
sight of them would cause thee!" 

He proposes that they shall kill themselves at once. 
Sara demurs: she suggests one night of love. But Axel 
begs her not to be trivial. "Oh, my beloved," he tries to 
explain to her, "to-morrow I should be the prisoner of thy 
wondrous body! Its delights would have enchained the 
chaste energy which animates me now!" and then, their 
love could never endure: some cursed day they would find 
it burnt out. She pleads still: "But remember the human 
race!" "The example I leave it," he answers, "is well 
worth those it has given me." "Those who fight for Jus- 
tice say that to kill oneself is to desert." "The verdict of 
beggars," he declares, "for whom God is but a way to earn 
their bread." "It might be nobler to think of the general 
good!" "The universe devours itself: at that price is the 
good of all" And he finally succeeds in persuading her: 



they drink a goblet of poison together and perish in a 

It will easily be seen that this super-dreamer of Villiers's 
is the type of all the heroes of the Symbolists, of our day 
as well as of his: Pater's contemplative, inactive Mariu$j 
the exquisitely sensitive young men of his "Imaginary 
Portraits"; Laforgue's Lohengrin, who, the night of his 
wedding, shrinking from union with his Elsa, turns his 
back on her and embraces his pillow begging it to carry 
him away his Salome, "the victim of having tried, like 
all of us, to live in the factitious instead of in the honest 
everyday"; the Hamlet of Mallarme's posthumous drama, 
"Igitur," who is the only character in the play and does 
nothing but soliloquize. And above all, Huysmans's Des 
Esseintes, who set the fashion for so many other personali- 
ties, fictitious and real, of the end of the century: the 
neurotic nobleman who arranges for himself an existence 
which will completely insulate him from the world and 
facilitate the cultivation of refined and bizarre sensations; 
who sleeps by day and stays up at night and whose fa- 
vorite reading is Silver Latin and the Symbolists. Des 
Esseintes is living up to the ideal of Axel and Sara when, 
having set out to visit London excited by the novels of 
Dickens he turns back at the railroad station: he has 
already driven in a cab through a foggy day in Paris, 
visited Galignani's English book-store, dined at an Eng- 
lish restaurant on oxtail soup, haddock, beefsteak and ale 
and as he remembers that he has left his tooth-brush, 
it occurs to him that on a former occasion he had been 



sadly disappointed by a visit to Holland and that the real 
London cannot possibly come up to the one he has just 
been imagining. It is difficult to agree with M. Lalou as 
to the literary merits of "Axel," but it is certainly true 
that it is in a sense a fin dc sitcle "Faust." And if we com- 
pare Villiers's point of view with the point of view of the 
Romantics, we see plainly the fundamental difference be- 
tween Symbolism and Romanticism. 

The later movement, as I have already said, was an anti- 
dote to nineteenth-century Naturalism, as the earlier had 
been an antidote to the neo-classicism of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries: Symbolism corresponds to Ro- 
manticism, and is in fact an outgrowth from it. But 
whereas it was characteristic of the Romantics to seek ex- 
perience for its own sake love, travel, politics to try the 
possibilities of life; the Symbolists, though they also hate 
formulas, though they also discard conventions, carry on 
their experimentation in the field of literature alone; and 
though they, too, are essentially explorers, explore only 
the possibilities of imagination and thought. And where- 
as the Romantic, in his individualism, had usually re- 
volted against or defied that society with which he felt 
himself at odds, the Symbolist has detached himself from 
society and schools himself in indifference to it: he will 
cultivate his unique personal sensibility even beyond the 
point to which the Romantics did, but he will not assert 
his individual will he will end by shifting the field of 
literature altogether, as his spokesman Axel had done the 
arena of life, from an objective to a subjective world, 



from an experience shared with society to an experience 
savored in solitude. 

The heroes of the Symbolists would rather drop out of 
the common life than have to struggle to make them- 
selves a place in it they forego their mistresses, prefer- 
ring dreams. And the heroes of the contemporary writers 
with whom I have been dealing in this book are in general 
as uncompromising as Axel sometimes, indeed, the 
authors themselves seem almost to have patterned their 
lives on the mythology of the earlier generation: the Owen 
Aherne and Michael Robartes of Yeats, with their lonely 
towers and mystic chambers, their addiction to the her- 
metic philosophy and Yeats himself, with his astrology 
and spiritualism, his own reiterated admonitions (in spite 
of considerable public activity) of the inferiority of the 
life of action to the life of solitary vision: Paul Valery's 
M. Teste, sunken also in solitary brooding so far below 
the level where the mind is occupied in attacking par- 
ticular practical problems that it is no longer interested 
even in thoughts which have for their objects particular 
fields of experience, but only in the processes of thought 
itself and Teste's inventor, the great poet who can 
hardly bring himself to write poetry, who can hardly 
even bring himself to explain why he cannot bring him- 
self to write poetry; the ineffectual fragmentary imagina- 
tion, the impotence and resignation, of the poet of "Geron- 
tion" and "The Waste Land"; the supine and helpless 
hero of "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu," with his ap- 
plication of prodigious intellectual energy to differenti- 



ating the emotions and sensations which arise from his 
passive contacts with life and with his preference for lying 
in bed by himself and worrying about Albertine's absences 
to getting up and taking he{ out Proust himself, who 
put into practice the regime which Huysmans had in- 
vented for his hero, keeping his shutters closed by day 
and exercising his sensibility by night, whose whole elabo- 
rate work might have been based on Axel's contention 
in regard to foreign travel that the reality never equals 
the dream; Joyce's Bloom, with his animated conscious- 
ness and his inveterate ineptitude; Joyce's new hero who 
surpasses even the feats of sleeping of Proust's narrator and 
M. Teste by remaining asleep through an entire novel; 
and Gertrude Stein, who has withdrawn into herself more 
completely, who has spun herself a more impenetrable 
cocoon, than even Michael Robartes, M. Teste, Gerontion, 
H. C. Earwicker or Albertine's asthmatic lover. 

There is a difference between Proust's cork-lined bed- 
room and Alfred de Vigny's ivory tower. Vigny was deal- 
ing, even in his art, with that active life of the world in 
which he had participated, but the post-Romantic writer 
who sleeps by day has lost touch with that world so com- 
pletely that he no longer knows precisely what it is like. 
We recognize in a Romantic like Coleridge, with his 
mulling, metaphysics-weaving mind and his drugs, much 
of the temperament and mentality of the author of "A la 
Recherche du Temps Perdu"; but even Coleridge has more 
politics than Proust. 



One of the principal causes, of course, for this with- 
drawal of the fin de sitclc poets from the general life of 
their time, was the fact that in the utilitarian society which 
had been produced by the industrial revolution and the 
rise of the middle class, the poet seemed to have no place. 
For Gautier's generation, the bourgeois had already be- 
come the enemy; but one took a lively satisfaction in 
fighting him. By the end of the century, however, the 
Bourgeois's world was going so strong that, from the point 
of view of the poet, it had come to seem hopeless to op- 
pose it. The artistic heroes of Thomas Mann with their 
abject "inferiority complex" in the presence of the good 
German burgher are typical of the end of the century; 
but certain writers with a strong Romantic strain like 
H. G. Wells and Bernard Shaw tried to promote through 
the new social sciences, in the teeth of the bourgeois world, 
the realization of those visions of universal happiness 
which had been cherished by some of the most individual- 
istic of the Romantics, such as Shelley and Rousseau. But 
if one had no sociological interest and no satirical bent 
and so no way of turning society to account, one did not 
try to struggle with it or to attract attention by publishing 
one's grievances against it: one simply did one's best to 
ignore it, to keep one's imagination free of it altogether. 

The poets of the end of the century, when they hap- 
pened to be incapable of Naturalism or of social idealism 



like William Morris's, were thus peculiarly maladjusted 
persons. We are less conscious of this in the case of the 
early Symbolist writers I have mentioned because they 
were men who either, not possessing particularly vigorous 
personalities, resigned themselves easily to their special 
situation or, from illness or for some other reason, were 
not able to rebel against it long. Pater and Mallarm 
were professors, living quietly and modestly among their 
books; Verlaine drifted with every wind; Corbiere and 
Laforgue were dying of tuberculosis in their twenties; 
Ducasse was dead at twenty-four, perhaps murdered for 
his alliance with the Socialists; and for Villiers de 1'Isle- 
Adam, a man of distinguished family who had plumbed 
the depths of poverty and misery in Paris to emerge 
finally, with health and disposition ruined, as a reputation 
of the literary cafes, it was easy to reject, in the role of the 
haughty Axel, imaginary treasures and honors. Yet both 
the characteristic tendency of the Symbolists to intimate 
rather than speak plainly and their cult of the unique per- 
sonal point of view are symptomatic of the extent to which 
they found themselves out of touch with their fellows and 
thrown in upon their own private imaginations. Another 
hero and pioneer of Symbolism, however, was both to 
struggle with the world and survive though to survive as 
something other than a poet; and his career reveals the 
whole situation in a dramatic burst of light. 

Arthur Rimbaud was born in the north of France, the 
son of a pious and strong-willed countrywoman and of 
an army officer who, during the years of his campaigning, 



paid little attention to his family and finally abandoned 
them altogether. A prize scholar at his provincial school, 
Rimbaud had run, by the time he was nineteen, through 
the whole repertoire of modern ideas: he had reacted 
against a strict religious training into romantic atheism 
and paganism; had flamed up, at the fall of the Second 
Empire, with social-revolutionary idealism; and had 
finally devoured Darwin and the other evolutionary writ- 
ers as, in poems written between sixteen and nine- 
teen (1870-73), he had, as one of his biographers has said, 
"lived in three years the literary evolution of modern 
times/' Rimbaud's earliest poetry was in a familiar Ro- 
mantic vein, to which, however, he soon brought fresh 
strong colors and new elements of irony and invective. 
He had already, at seventeen, attempted, in a letter to a 
friend, an original reestimate of the Romantics, of whom 
he asserted that they had never properly been judged, and 
proposed at the same time a new theory of poetry which, 
though more violent and apocalyptic than most expres- 
sions of Symbolist doctrine, prophesied the advent of Sym- 

"I say that one must be a visionary that one must 
make oneself a VISIONARY. 

"The poet makes himself a visionary through a long, 
immense and reasoned derangement of all the senses. All 
forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he seeks himself, 
he exhausts all poisons in himself to keep only their 
quintessences. An indescribable torture in which he has 
need of all faith, all superhuman force, in which he be- 



comes, among all, the great sick man, the great criminal, 
the great accursed and the supreme Scholar! for he ar- 
rives at the unknown Because he has cultivated his soul, 
already rich, more than anyone else! He arrives at the 
unknown; and even if, driven insane, he should end by 
losing his grasp on his visions, he has seen them! Let him 
perish, in his plunging, by unheard-of unnamable things: 
other horrible workers will come; they will begin at those 
horizons where their predecessors sank! . . . 

"The poet is a true Stealer of Fire. 

"He is charged with humanity, with the animals them- 
selves; he must make his inventions felt, handled, heard. 
If what he brings back from beyond has form, he gives 
form; if it is formless, he gives the formless. To find a 

" All speech, furthermore, being idea, the time of a 
universal language will come ! One has to be an academi- 
cian deader than a fossil to make a dictionary of any 
language at all. The weak-minded would begin thinking 
about the first letter of the alphabet and might quickly 
end by going mad! 

"This language will be of the soul for the soul, sum- 
ming up all, perfumes, sounds, colors, catching hold of 
thought with thought and drawing it out. The poet would 
define the quantity of unknown awakening in his time 
in the universal soul: he would give more than the for- 
mula of his thought, more than the annotation of his 
march to Progress! An enormity becoming a norm ab- 
sorbed by all, he would be a true multiplier of progress! . . . 



"I habituated myself," he wrote later, "to simple hal- 
lucination: I would see quite honestly a mosque instead 
of a factory, a school of drummers composed of angels, 
calashes on the roads of the sky, a drawing-room at the 
bottom of a lake: monsters, mysteries; the announcement 
of a musical comedy would cause horrors to rise before me. 

"Then I explained my magical sophistries by the hal- 
lucination of words! 

"I ended by finding sacred the disorder of my intelli- 
gence. . . ." 

Rimbaud had apparently arrived at the point of view 
set forth in his letter independently of the influence of 
any other French poet; and, in the productions described 
in the later passage, had merely been giving expression 
to a unique personal way of seeing though he was to 
know something of English literature and had probably 
read Poe's poetry as early as 1872. A few months after 
writing this letter, however, he had made the acquaintance 
of Paul Verlaine. Verlaine, though he published his 
poems in the collections of the Parnassians, was already 
tending toward pure musical effects and taking unauthor- 
ized metrical liberties; and he had a special predisposition 
toward the sort of poetry with which Rimbaud was be- 
ginning to experiment boldly. He helped and encouraged 
the boy; took him into his house in Paris and tried to 
put him in touch with the Parisian literary world. 

And Rimbaud in his turn was not only profoundly to 
influence Verlaine's poetry, but to play havoc with his 
life. Verlaine, then twenty-seven, had just been married 



and his wife was expecting a baby; but his impressionable 
feminine nature, at once rakish and sentimental, was de- 
lighted and infatuated by Rimbaud. Rimbaud, who, for 
all the boy's blue eyes and apple-cheeks which were com- 
bined with his ungainly figure and his large bumpkin's 
hands and feet, for all his unsteady adolescent's voice with 
its northern country accent, had already his hard core and 
his harsh will; and he now brought to the role of outlaw 
the moral force which he had inherited from his mother, 
even though her narrowness and rigor, her merciless 
domination of his childhood, had been driving him to take 
the part of Satan. A provincial in Paris without a penny, 
as well as a man of genius at an age when most boys are 
only just beginning to indulge their first doubts and to 
hazard their first original phrases, Rimbaud's position 
would by no means have been easy even if his nature had 
not been intractable. He ran amuck in the literary circles 
to which Verlaine introduced him, and, after disrupting 
Verlaine's household, carried him off on a vagabondage 
of adventure through Belgium and England. Verlaine had 
already, presumably, become rather discontented with his 
bourgeois domestic life he was obliged to live with his 
wife's family and Rimbaud had quickly infected him 
with his own ambition to become a supreme Visionary 
and a supreme outlaw against bourgeois society: "I had, 
indeed, in all sincerity of spirit," Rimbaud writes in one 
of his prose poems, "undertaken to restore him to his 
primitive condition of child of the Sun and we wan- 
dered, fed with the wine of thieves' dens and the hard- 



tack of the road, I eager to find the place and the for- 
mula." But this programme was too much for Verlaine, 
whom Rimbaud ridiculed and bedevilled and who was 
made uneasy by memories of his wife: her child had been 
born in the meantime and she was now bringing an action 
for divorce. Rimbaud himself, in the abrupt ruthless con- 
frontation of the realities of his situation which followed 
this hallucinated period, was aware of the extent to which 
he had made Verlaine a victim of his own special malad- 
justment and of the extent to which he himself, in regard 
to that maladjustment, had been taking a line of least re- 
sistance: "Beside his dear sleeping body," he makes Ver- 
laine say in "Une Saison en Enfer," "how many hours of 
the night I have watched, seeking why he should desire 
so furiously to escape from reality. Never before had man 
such an ambition. I recognized without fearing for him 
that he might be a serious danger to society. Has he 
perhaps secrets to change life?" Rimbaud had always 
been given to seeing himself in the role of a criminal: 
"Even as a child," he writes, "I used to admire the incor- 
rigible convict on whom the jail is always closing 
again. . . . He had for me more strength than a saint, 
more good sense than a traveller and himself, himself 
alone! for witness of his glory and his reason." And now 
he makes Verlaine play at this game with him: on one 
occasion, they both get arrested for discussing imaginary 
robberies and murders in the railway station at Arras. 

The literary results of this expedition were Verlaine's 
"Romances sans Paroles" and Rimbaud's "Illuminations." 



Their titles indicate the wide difference between the tem- 
peraments and geniuses of the two men; yet the poems 
represent a sort of collaboration which was to be as im- 
portant as Mallarm^'s cenacle in making the new poetry 
self-conscious and in giving it the courage of its convic- 

At last, after several quarrels and separations, Verlaine 
and Rimbaud parted definitively though not until Ver- 
laine had been sentenced to two years in prison at Brussels 
for shooting Rimbaud in the wrist, and Rimbaud, meeting 
Verlaine at Stuttgart after the latter's release and finding 
that he had while in jail repented of his former errors and 
found repose in the bosom of the Church, had first pro- 
ceeded to get Verlaine drunk and make him blaspheme 
his faith, "cause" as Rimbaud wrote in a letter, "the 
ninety-eight wounds of Our Lord to bleed," and then 
according, at least, to the legend as they were walking 
through the Black Forest and another altercation arose, 
knocked him down with a club and left him unconscious. 

In the meantime, while Verlaine was in jail, Rimbaud 
had returned to his mother's house in the Ardennes, 
where, during the spring and summer of 1873, he com- 
posed that extraordinary masterpiece "Une Saison en 
Enfer," in which the hysteria of the late nineteenth cen- 
tury in France, not very different from that of our own 
time an age recently deprived of religious faith, demoral- 
ized and embittered by war and already becoming dis- 
satisfied with social utopianism, science and the cult of 
art as an end in itself was crystallized in the sharp and 



dazzling fragments of what Verlaine called a "diamond 
prose." But now, not merely unreconciled to the bourgeois 
world and at the centre of the conflict of its intellectual 
currents, but disillusioned at last with all these, disgusted 
with his own incoherence and even with the brilliant 
literature which he had created to give it expression, he 
had planned an escape from the European reality by a 
more effective means than self-hallucination. Rimbaud 
had always thought of himself as a peasant, as a member 
of "the inferior race," the blue-eyed Gauls whom the Ro- 
mans had conquered and he had always longed for some 
life that would take the place of the lost brutality and 
innocence of Europe, for the non-Christian, non-middle- 
class life of the Orient, of Africa: 

"Priests, professors, masteis," he now writes, "you are 
wrong to give me up to justice. I have never belonged 
to these people; I have never been a Christian; I am of 
the race who sang in torture; I do not understand the 
laws; I haven't the moral sense, I am a brute; you are 
doing wrong. Yes, my eyes are closed to your light. I am 
a nigger, a beast. But I may be saved. You yourselves are 
false niggers, savage and grasping madmen. Tradesman, 
you are a nigger; magistrate, you are a nigger; general, 
you are a nigger; emperor, old itching palm, you are a 
nigger: you have drunk of a contraband liquor from Sa- 
tan's distillery. This people is inspired by fever and cancer. 
Invalids and old men are so respectable that they ought 
to be boiled. The wisest course is to quit this continent, 
where madness prowls to provide these wretches with 



hostages. I am entering into the true kingdom of Shem. 

"Do I know Nature? do I know myself? No more 
words. I bury the dead in my belly. Shouts, drums, dance, 
dance, dance! I do not even foresee the hour when the 
white men will land among us and when I shall be noth- 
ing again. 

"Hunger, thirst, shouts, dance, dance, dance, dance!" 

Having finished his "pagan book, nigger book/* as he 
called it before he gave it its final name, "A Season in 
Hell," he went down in the autumn to Paris, where the 
literary men in the cafes, who had heard of his escapades 
with Verlaine, received him with insulting coldness. He 
returned to his mother's house and burnt up all the copies 
of "Unc Saison en Enfer" which he had just received from 
his publisher, as well as all the other manuscripts he had. 

And now he proceeded to carry out the resolution which 
he had announced in the work he had burnt. Shutting 
himself up and studying continuously, sometimes for 
twenty-four hours at a time, he applies himself to learn- 
ing the modern languages he had always had a linguistic 
gift which are most useful for travel and trade: English, 
German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic and Greek. 
And as a few years before, just out of school, without 
money and almost without friends, he had kept obsti- 
nately running away to Paris so now, determined to 
turn his back on Europe, as moneyless and more friend- 
less than before, he tries repeatedly to reach the East. First, 
after teaching for a year in Germany, he sells his trunk 
and makes his way to Italy, with the intention of joining 



a friend who has a soap-factory in the Cyclades; but, un- 
dertaking to travel to Brindisi on foot, he gets a sunstroke 
and is repatriated by the French consul. At Marseilles, he 
manages to live by unloading cargo and helping truck- 
drivers, and then enlists in the Carlist army, but finally 
returns to his mother's house. Next, in order to get passage 
to Java, he enlists for six years in the Dutch army lands 
at Batavia, deserts, joins the crew of an English sailing- 
vessel, goes back to France and home again. The next 
year, under the pretext of wanting to go to Austria for the 
purpose of learning German, he succeeds in getting some 
money out of his mother; but immediately upon arriving 
in Vienna, he takes his cabman out for a drink and in 
return is robbed of his coat with all his money, and finds 
himself obliged to sell key-rings and shoe-laces in the street 
till he gets into a row with the Austrian police and is sent 
back again to France. Soon, however, he sets out on foot 
for Hamburg, whence he hopes to find some way of get- 
ting to the East, but where, instead, he falls in with a 
circus, with which he travels as interpreter and barker on 
a tour of the Scandinavian countries, finally getting him' 
self sent back by the consul from Stockholm to Charle- 
ville again. On his next attempt, after earning a little 
money unloading cargo at Marseilles, he buys passage to 
Alexandria, but on the ship develops gastric fever from a 
rubbing of his ribs against his abdomen, caused by too 
much walking and goes back to Char levi lie. 

Three months afterwards, however in the spring of 
1878 by way of Switzerland, Italy and Egypt, he sue- 



ceeds in reaching the island of Cyprus and gets a job as 
foreman in one of the quarries. But he catches typhoid 
and by the spring of the next year is at home with his 
family once more. When a friend asks him whether he is 
writing nowadays, he replies with annoyance and scorn: 
"I don't do anything with that any more"; and when, on 
the eve of his departure the next spring, he hears one of 
his friends congratulate another on having just bought 
some Lemerre editions Lemerre had been the publisher 
of the Parnassians he bursts out: "That's a lot of money 
wasted. It's absolutely idiotic to buy books and especially 
books like that. You've got a ball between your shoulders 
that ought to take the place of books. When you put 
books on your shelves, the only thing they do is cover up 
the leprosies of the old walls." He looks for work in 
Cyprus, in Egypt, in Abyssinia, in all the ports of the 
Red Sea, and finally finds a job at Aden working at twelve 
francs a day for a firm of French coffee importers. This 
company presently sends him to Harrar, where it is start- 
ing a new branch, and later makes Rimbaud the director 
of all its expeditions into Galla and Somaliland. Rimbaud 
was the first European to penetrate into the country of 
Ogadain; and on his return from an extremely dangerous 
expedition to one of the native potentates, he traced for 
the first time the itinerary afterwards taken by the Ethio- 
pian railway. At last, however, he quarrels with his em- 
ployers and, after adventures of various kinds, sets up at 
Harrar a trading-post of his own, where he traffics in 
sugar, rice, silk, cotton-goods and arms, sending out his 



own caravans, intriguing with the local kings, entertain- 
ing European travellers with enchanting and cynical con- 
versation and maintaining a harem of native women 
carefully selected as coming from different parts of the 
country so that they may teach him their different lan- 
guages. During this period, he wrote to a friend on Lc 
Temps asking to be sent as war correspondent to cover 
the Italo-Abyssinian campaign. This proposal was de- 
clined, but in answering his letter the friend informed him 
that his poems, preserved by Verlaine, were being pub- 
lished and read in Paris, and that, in the circles of the 
new Symbolist school, he had become a legendary figure, 
an attempt having even been made to found a new liter- 
ary system on a sonnet in which he had assigned different 
colors to the vowels. But at this period, Rimbaud's only 
literary concern was to supply reports to the Geographical 
Society, and, when he refers to his poetry at all, it is to 
dismiss it as "absurd" or "disgusting." "I couldn't go on 
with it," he told his sister later. "I should have gone mad 
and besides it was bad stuff." The only ambition he 
now admits is to make enough money to marry a French 
girl and retire from his present business "to have at least 
one son whom I could spend the rest of my life bringing 
up according to my own ideas, cultivating and arming 
him with the completest education that one can get in 
this age, and whom I could see become a famous engineer, 
powerful and rich through science." 

One winter, however, after Rimbaud had been twelve 
years in the East, he found himself suffering from what 



he took at first to be varicose veins; but he refused to go 
to a doctor, kept on walking and riding, as if he could 
dominate even disease by his stubborn and brutal will 
and presently found that his leg was so swollen that he 
was obliged to direct his business from bed. At last the 
pain had become so severe that he was compelled to give 
up altogether and have himself carried on a litter to Aden, 
a terrible journey of twelve days, on the second of which 
he spent sixteen hours without shelter under pouring rain. 
The English doctor at Aden told Rimbaud that he 
would be unable to treat him properly, and shipped him 
back to France, where, in the hospital at Marseilles, they 
amputated his leg. For the last time Rimbaud returned 
to his mother's: he tried to get about on a crutch, but the 
infection had spread through his whole system. He spent 
an agonizing summer of pain and fever, and then, with 
a fixed idea of returning to the East, had himself sent 
back to Marseilles. There he died, attended only by his 
sister. It was harvest-time on the family farm, and the 
daughter's absence was bitterly resented by her mother, 
who when Arthur had been away, had refused to get for 
him instruments and books which he had sent her the 
money to buy. Isabelle, Rimbaud's sister, had never known 
till after her brother's death, when she read about it in 
the papers, that Arthur had been a poet, but she heard 
him "end his life in a sort of continual dream, saying 
strange things very gently in a voice that would have 
charmed me if it had not pierced my heart. What he was 
saying was all dreams, yet it was not the same thing at all 



as when he had had the fever. It was as if he did it on 
purpose. ... He mixed all sorts of things up, and with 
art/' But Rimbaud, in his final delirium, was still obsessed 
by the idea of the East: on his death-bed, he insisted upon 
dictating a letter to a steamship company, asking how 
much the passage would cost and when he should have 
himself carried aboard. 

One is likely to be guilty of over-simplification in using 
people's personal careers to point the morals of general 
social situations. Rimbaud, in his role of African trader, 
had obviously succeeded at last in emulating his father 
and his mother both at once repeating the career of the 
former, who had campaigned in Italy, Algiers and the 
Crimea, by his wanderings and his intolerant indepen- 
dence at the same time that, by his sound character as a 
trader and his concentration upon making money, he was 
achieving the only sort of success which his mother could 
understand. Yet Rimbaud's life has a typical significance: 
it moves us, it seems to put before us an acute phase of the 
human predicament, as if it were a great play. The other 
poets of whom I have been writing were as little at home 
in their nineteenth-century world as Rimbaud, and they 
were mostly as disillusioned with its enthusiasms; but they 
had remained in it and managed to hold their places in 
it by excreting, like patient molluscs, iridescent shells of 
literature whereas Rimbaud, with genius equal to any's, 
with genius perhaps superior to ariy's, had rejected Europe 
altogether not merely its society and ideas, but even the 
kind of sensibility which one cultivated when one tried 



to live at odds with it and the kind of literature this sensi- 
bility supplied getting away to a life of pure action and a 
more primitive civilization. 

And if actions can be compared with writings, Rim- 
baud's life seems more satisfactory than the works of his 
Symbolist contemporaries, than those even of most of his 
Symbolist successors, who stayed at home and stuck to 
literature. Rimbaud was far from finding in the East that 
ideal barbarous state he was seeking; even at Harrar dur- 
ing the days of his prosperity he was alwavs steaming 
with anxieties and angers but his career, with its vio- 
lence, its moral interest and its tragic completeness, leaves 
us feeling that we have watched the human spirit, strained 
to its most resolute sincerity and in possession of its highest 
faculties, breaking itself in the effort to escape, first from 
humiliating compromise, and then from chaos equally 
humiliating. And when we turn back to consider even 
the masterpieces of that literature which Rimbaud had 
helped to found and which he had repudiated, we are 
oppressed by a sullenness, a lethargy, a sense of energies 
ingrown and sometimes festering. Even the poetry of the 
noble Yeats, still repining through middle age over the 
emotional miscarriages of youth, is dully weighted, for all 
its purity and candor, by a leaden acquiescence in defeat. 


What then is to be the future of this literature? Will the 
poets become more and more esoteric as the world be- 


comes more and more difficult for them, diverging further 
and further from the methods and the language of popu- 
lar literature in proportion as popular literature approxi- 
mates more and more closely to journalism? Will the 
sciences dominate the future, as Pierre de Massot has sug- 
gested in a book which traces the development of Sym- 
bolism from Mallarme to Dadaism, "smothering the last 
works of the past, until the day when literature, music 
and painting have become the three principal branches of 
neurology"? Paul Valery has recently predicted that as 
radio, moving picture and television come to take the 
place of books as means of affecting people's feelings and 
ideas, literature, as we have known it in the past, may 
become "as obsolete and as far removed from life and 
practice as geomancy, the heraldic art and the science of 
falconry." Literature, according to Valery, has become 
"an art which is based on the abuse of language that is, 
it is based on language as a creator of illusions, and not 
on language as a means of transmitting realities. Every- 
thing which makes a language more precise, everything 
which emphasizes its practical character, all the changes 
which it undergoes in the interests of a more rapid trans- 
mission and an easier diffusion, are contrary to its func- 
tion as a poetic instrument." As language becomes more 
international and more technical, it will become also less 
capable of supplying the symbols of literature; and then, 
just as the development of mechanical devices has com- 
pelled us to resort to sports in order to exercise our muscles, 
so literature will survive as a game as a series of spe- 



cialized experiments in the domain of "symbolic expres- 
sion and imaginative values attained through the free com- 
bination of the elements of language." 

I agree with Valery that "the development in Europe, 
since 1852, of literary works which are extremely difficult, 
subtle and refined, which are written in a complicated 
style, and which, for that reason, are forbidden to most 
readers, bears some relation to the increase in number of 
literates," and to the consequent "intensive production of 
mediocre or average works." But I am by no means sure 
that the future destiny of this difficult and subtle art is to 
be practised only as a sort of game and with no relation to 
other intellectual activities. The truth is, I believe, that 
Valery's pessimism arises itself from the special point of 
view which, as I have said, has been associated from the 
beginning with the school of literature that Valery repre- 

The disillusion and weariness which we recognize as 
characteristic of the eighties and nineties were in reality 
the aspects of a philosophy which, implicit in the writings 
of the Symbolists, was to come to its full growth and 
exert its widest influence during the period that followed 
the War. I do not mean that Symbolism as an organized 
movement went on becoming more and more powerful 
until it triumphed over all rival movements: the eminence 
at this particular time of a set of writers such writers as 
I have discussed in this book all stemming more or less 
directly from Symbolism, was unexpected and rather sud- 
den, and it was due largely to extra-literary accidents. The 



period immediately before the War had been character- 
ized, on the whole, by a predominance of Naturalistic 
and social-idealistic literature the great reputations in 
England and France had been those of writers like Shaw, 
Wells, and Bennett, Romain Holland and Anatole France. 
But when the prodigious concerted efforts of the War had 
ended only in impoverishment and exhaustion for all the 
European peoples concerned, and in a general feeling of 
hopelessness about politics, about all attempts to organize 
men into social units armies, parties, nations in the ser- 
vice of some common ideal, for the accomplishment of 
some particular purpose, the Western mind became pecu' 
liarly hospitable to a literature indifferent to action and 
unconcerned with the group. Many of the socially-minded 
writers, besides, had been intellectually demoralized by 
the War and had irreparably lost credit in consequence; 
whereas these others Yeats, Valery, Joyce, Proust had 
maintained an unassailable integrity and now fell heir to 
the prestige which had been sacrificed by other poets and 
novelists who had abandoned the detached study of hu- 
man motives and the expression of those universal emo- 
tions which make all classes and peoples one, to become 
intolerant partisans. It had required a determined inde- 
pendence and an overmastering absorption in literature 
to remain unshaken by the passions and fears of that 
time and in the masterpieces which these scattered and 
special writers had been producing in isolation, and, as it 
were, secretly, while pandemonium raged without, their 
justification was plain. These books revealed new discov- 



cries, artistic, metaphysical, psychological: they mapped 
the labyrinths of human consciousness as they seemed 
never to have been mapped before, they made one con- 
ceive the world in a new way. What wonder that for 
those who survived the War these writers should have 
become heroes and leaders? 

There are, as I have said, in our contemporary society, 
for writers who are unable to interest themselves in it 
either by studying it scientifically, by attempting to re- 
form it or by satirizing it, only two alternative courses to 
follow Axel's or Rimbaud's, If one chooses the first of 
these, the way of Axel, one shuts oneself up in one's own 
private world, cultivating one's private fantasies, encour- 
aging one's private manias, ultimately preferring one's 
absurdest chimeras to the most astonishing contemporary 
realities, ultimately mistaking one's chimeras for realities. 
If one chooses the second, the way of Rimbaud, one tries 
to leave the twentieth century behind to find the good 
life in some country where modern manufacturing meth- 
ods and modern democratic institutions do not present 
any problems to the artist because they haven't yet arrived. 
In this book, I have been occupied with writers who have, 
in general, taken Axel's course; but the period since the 
War has furnished almost as many examples of writers 
who have gone the way of Rimbaud without usually, 
however, like him, getting to the point of giving up lit- 
erature altogether. All our cult, which Wyndham Lewis 
has denounced, of more primitive places and peoples is 
really the manifestation of an impulse similar to Rim- 



baud's D. H. Lawrence's mornings in Mexico and his 
explorations of Santa Fe and Australia; Blaise Cendrars's 
negro anthology, the negro masks which bring such high 
prices in Paris, Andre Gide's lifelong passion for Africa 
which has finally led him to navigate the Congo, Sher- 
wood Anderson's exhilaration at the "dark laughter" of 
the American South, and the fascination for white New 
Yorkers of Harlem; and even that strange infatuation 
with the infantile because our children are more barba- 
rous than we which has allowed the term Expressionism 
to be applied at once to drawings done by the pupils in 
German schools and to the dramas of German play- 
wrights, which caused Nathalia Crane to be taken seri- 
ously and made Daisy Ashford all the rage; that hysteri- 
cal excitement over modern "primitives" which has led 
the generation of Jean Cocteau to talk about the douanier 
Rousseau as their fathers did about Degas all this has 
followed in the wake of Rimbaud. 

Yet Lawrence, for all his rovings, must come back to 
the collieries again; and for Anderson, though he may 
seek in New Orleans the leisure and ease of the old South, 
it is the factories of Ohio which still stick in his crop. The 
Congo masks in Paris are buried in galleries or in the 
houses of private collectors almost as completely as if 
they were sunk among the ruins of their vanished dynas- 
ties in the African wilderness; and when white New 
Yorkers, obstreperous and drunken, visit the Harlem 
cabarets at night, they find the negroes in American 
business suits, attempting modestly and drearily to con- 



form to the requirements of Western civilization. Our 
shocking children soon grow up into adults as docile as 
their mothers and fathers. And as for those that choose 
Axel's course, the price paid by the man of imagination 
who, while remaining in the modern world, declines to 
participate in its activities and tries to keep his mind 
off its plight, is usually to succumb to some monstrosity 
or absurdity. We feel it in Proust's hypochondriac ail- 
ments and his fretting self-centred prolixities; in Yeats's 
astrology and spirit-tappings and in the seventeenth-cen- 
tury cadence which half puts to sleep his livest prose; in 
the meagreness of the poetic output of Paul Valery and 
T. S. Eliot contrasted with their incessant speculations as 
to precisely what constitutes poetry, precisely what func- 
tion it performs and whether there is any point in writ- 
ing it; even in the mystifications by which Joyce, "forg- 
ing," just behind that screen, "the uncreated conscious- 
ness" not merely of the Irish but of the western man of 
our time, has made his books rather difficult of access to 
a public for whom a few chapter headings or a word of 
explanation might have enabled them to recognize more 
readily a mirror for the study of their own minds. (The 
philosophical mathematicians and physicists whose work 
these novelists and poets parallel seem to have developed, 
no doubt from the same social and political causes, a simi- 
lar metaphysical hypertrophy: consider the disproportion- 
ate size of the shadow-structure of speculation which such 
a writer as Eddington tries to base on some new modifi- 
cation of physical theory, itself suggested on most uncer- 
tain evidence.) 289 


It is true of these later writers that they have not dis* 
sociated themselves from society so completely as the 
original group of Symbolists: they have supplied us, as a 
matter of fact, with a good deal of interesting social criti- 
cism; but it is usually a criticism which does not aim at 
anything, it is an exercise Proust is the great example 
of the pure intelligence playing luminously all about but 
not driven by the motor power of any hope and not di- 
rected by any creative imagination for the possibilities of 
human life. If these writers ever indicate a preference for 
any social order different from the present one, it is in- 
variably for some society of the past as they have read of 
it in its most attractive authors as Yeats likes to imagine 
himself in the role of some great lord and patron of arts 
of the Renaissance, or as Eliot dedicates his credo to a 
seventeenth-century Anglican bishop. And this tendency 
to look to the past, in spite of the revolutionary character 
of some of their methods, has sometimes given even to 
their most original work an odd Alexandrian aspect: the 
productions of Eliot, Proust and Joyce, for example, are 
sometimes veritable literary museums. It is not merely 
that these modern novelists and poets build upon their 
predecessors, as the greatest writers have done in all times, 
but that they have developed a weakness for recapitu- 
lating them in parodies. 

When these writers do turn their attention to the con- 
temporary world and its future, it is usually with strange, 
and even eerie, results. Eliot has recently explaining 
by the way, in regard to causes in general, that "we fight 



rather to keep something alive than in the expectation 
that anything will triumph'* put forward, or announced 
his intention of putting forward, a programme of classi- 
cism, royalism and Anglo-Catholicism; and Yeats, in his 
astrological "Vision," has predicted the future of Europe 
as follows: 

"A decadence will descend, by perpetual moral im- 
provement, upon a community which may seem like some 
woman of New York or Paris who has renounced her 
rouge pot to lose her figure and grow coarse of skin and 
dull of brain, feeding her calves and babies somewhere 
upon the edge of the wilderness. The decadence of the 
Greco-Roman world with its violent soldiers and its ma- 
hogany dark young athletes was as great, but that sug- 
gested the bubbles of life turned into marbles, whereas 
what awaits us, being democratic and primary, may sug- 
gest bubbles in a frozen pond mathematical Babylonian 
starlight. . . . 

"It is possible that the ever increasing separation from 
the community as a whole of the cultivated classes, their 
increasing certainty, and that falling in two of the human 
mind which I have seen in certain works of art is prepa- 
ration. During the period said to commence in 1927, 
with the nth gyre, must arise a form of philosophy which 
will become religious and ethical in the I2th gyre and be 
in all things opposite of that vast plaster Herculean im- 
age, final primary thought. It will be concrete in expres- 
sion, establish itself by immediate experience, seek no gen- 
eral agreement, make little of God or any exterior unity, 



and it will call that good which a man can contemplate 
himself as doing always and no other doing at all. It 
will make a cardinal truth of man's immortality that its 
virtue may not lack sanction, and of the soul's reembodi- 
ment that it may restore to virtue that long preparation 
none can give and hold death an interruption. The su- 
preme experience, Plotinus's ecstasy of the Saint, will re- 
cede, for men finding it difficult substituted dogma 
and idol, abstractions of all sorts of things beyond experi- 
ence; and man may be long content with those more 
trivial supernatural benedictions as when Athena took 
Achilles by his yellow hair. Men will no longer separate 
the idea of God from that of human genius, human 
productivity in all its forms." 

I believe therefore that the time is at hand when these 
writers, who have largely dominated the literary world 
of the decade 1920-30, though we shall continue to ad- 
mire them as masters, will no longer serve us as guides. 
Axel's world of the private imagination in isolation from 
the life of society seems to have been exploited and ex- 
plored as far as for the present is possible. Who can im- 
agine this sort of thing being carried further than Valery 
and Proust have done? And who hereafter will be con- 
tent to inhabit a corner, though fitted out with some 
choice things of one's own, in the shuttered house of one 
of these writers where we find ourselves, also, becom- 
ing conscious of a lack of ventilation ? On the other hand, 
it seems equally unsatisfactory, equally impossible, to imi- 
tate Rimbaud: we carry with us in our own minds and 



habits the civilization of machinery, trade, democratic edu- 
cation and standardization to the Africas and Asias to 
which we flee, even if we do not find them there before 
us. Nor can we keep ourselves up very long at home by 
any of the current substitutes for Rimbaud's solution by 
occupying ourselves exclusively with prize-fighters or 
with thugs or by simply remaining drunk or making 
love all the time. In the meantime, western Europe has 
been recovering from the exhaustion and despair of the 
War; and in America the comfortable enjoyment of 
what was supposed to be American prosperity, which 
since the War has made it possible for Americans to ac- 
cept with a certain complacency the despondency as well 
as the resignation of European books, has given way to 
a sudden disquiet. And Americans and Europeans are 
both becoming more and more conscious of Russia, a 
country where a central social-political idealism has been 
able to use and to inspire the artist as well as the engineer. 
The question begins to press us again as to whether it is 
possible to make a practical success of human society, 
and whether, if we continue to fail, a few masterpieces, 
however profound or noble, will be able to make life 
worth living even for the few people in a position to en- 
joy them. 

The reaction against nineteenth-century Naturalism 
which Symbolism originally represented has probably 
now run its full course, and the oscillation which for at 
least three centuries has been taking place between the 
poles of objectivity and subjectivity may return toward 



objectivity again: we may live to see Val6ry, Eliot and 
Proust displaced and treated with as much intolerance 
as those writers Wells, France and Shaw whom they 
have themselves displaced. Yet as surely as Ibsen and 
Flaubert brought to their Naturalistic plays and novels 
the sensibility and language of Romanticism, the writers 
of a new reaction in the direction of the study of man in 
his relation to his neighbor and to society will profit by 
the new intelligence and technique of Symbolism. Or 
what would be preferable and is perhaps more likely 
this oscillation may finally cease. Our conceptions of ob- 
jective and subjective have unquestionably been based 
on false dualisms; our materialisms and idealisms alike 
have been derived from mistaken conceptions of what 
the researches of science implied Classicism and Ro- 
manticism, Naturalism and Symbolism are, in reality, 
therefore false alternatives. And so we may see Natural- 
ism and Symbolism combine to provide us with a vision 
of human life and its universe, richer, more subtle, more 
complex and more complete than any that man has yet 
known indeed, they have already so combined, Sym- 
bolism has already rejoined Naturalism, in one great 
work of literature, "Ulysses." 

I cannot believe, then, with Paul Valery that Symbol- 
ism is doomed to become more and more highly spe- 
cialized until it has been reduced to the status of an intel- 
lectual pastime like anagrams or chess. It seems to me far 
more likely that it will be absorbed and assimilated by the 
general literature and thought. All the exponents of Sym- 



holism have insisted that they were attempting to meet a 
need for a new language. "To find a tongue!" Rimbaud 
had cried. "One has to be an academician deader than 
a fossil to make a dictionary of any language at all/' 
And Valery himself had followed Mallarme in an ef- 
fort to push to a kind of algebra the classical language 
of French poetry; Gertrude Stein has explained that her 
later writings are intended to "restore its intrinsic mean- 
ing to literature"; and Joyce, in his new novel, has been 
attempting to create a tongue which shall go deeper than 
conscious spoken speech and follow the processes of the 
unconscious. It is probably true, as Pater has suggested, 
that there is something akin to the scientific instinct in 
the efforts of modern literature to render the transitory 
phases of "a world of fine gradations and subtly linked 
conditions, shifting intricately as we ourselves change." 
In any case, the experiments of men who in their life- 
times have been either received with complete indiffer- 
ence or denounced as practical jokers or lunatics may per- 
haps prove of equal importance with those scattered re- 
searches in mathematics and physics which seemed at first 
merely whimsical exercises on the margins of their sub- 
jects, but which have been laid under contribution by the 
great modern physical systems without which these 
could scarcely have been constructed. Mallarme's poetry, 
in its time, seemed no more gratuitous and abstruse than 
Gauss's fourth-dimensional coordinates yet it has been 
built upon by writers as considerable in their own field as 
Einstein is in his. 



As I have pointed out in connection with Gertrude 
Stein, our ideas about the 'logic" of language are likely 
to be superficial. The relation of words to what they con- 
vey that is, to the processes behind them and the proc- 
esses to which they give rise in those who listen to or 
read them is still a very mysterious one. We tend to 
assume that being convinced of things is something quite 
different from having them suggested to us; but the sug- 
gestive language of the Symbolist poet is really perform- 
ing the same sort of function as the reasonable language 
of the realistic novelist or even the severe technical lan- 
guages of science. The most, apparently, we can say of 
language is that it indicates relations, and a Symbolist 
poem does this just as much as a mathematical formula: 
both suggest imaginary worlds made up of elements ab- 
stracted from our experience of the real world and re- 
vealing relations which we acknowledge to be valid 
within those fields of experience. The only difference be- 
tween the language of Symbolism and the literary lan- 
guages to which we are more accustomed is that the 
former indicates relations which, recently perceived for 
the first time, cut through or underlie those in terms of 
which we have been in the habit of thinking; and that it 
deals with them by means of what amounts, in com- 
parison with conventional language, to a literary short- 
hand which makes complex ideas more easily manage- 
able. This new language may actually have the effect of 
revolutionizing our ideas of syntax, as modern philosophy 
seems to be tending to discard the notion of cause and 



effect. It is evidently working, like modern scientific 
theory, toward a totally new conception of reality. This 
conception, as we find it to-day in much Symbolist liter- 
ature, seems, it is true, rather formidably complicated and 
sometimes even rather mystical; but this complexity may 
presently give rise to some new and radical simplification, 
when the new ideas which really lie behind these more 
and more elaborate attempts to recombine and adapt the 
old have finally begun to be plain. And the result may 
be, not, as Valery predicts, an infinite specialization and 
divergence of the sciences and arts, but their finally fall- 
ing all into one system. He himself suggests such a possi- 
bility by constantly reminding us of the single "method" 
common to all departments of thought. And who can 
say that, as science and art look more and more deeply 
into experience and achieve a wider and wider range, and 
as they come to apply themselves more and more directly 
and expertly to the needs of human life, they may not ar- 
rive at a way of thinking, a technique of dealing with our 
perceptions, which will make art and science one ? 

The writers with whom I have here been concerned 
have not only, then, given us works of literature which, 
for intensity, brilliance and boldness as well as for an 
architectural genius, an intellectual mastery of their ma- 
terials, rare among their Romantic predecessors, are prob- 
ably comparable to the work of any time. Though it is 
true that they have tended to overemphasize the impor- 
tance of the individual, that they have been preoccupied 
with introspection sometimes almost to the point of in- 



sanity, that they have endeavored to discourage their 
readers, not only with politics, but with action of any 
kind they have yet succeeded in effecting in literature 
a revolution analogous to that which has taken place in 
science and philosophy: they have broken out of the old 
mechanistic routine, they have disintegrated the old ma- 
terialism, and they have revealed to the imagination a 
new flexibility and freedom. And though we are aware 
in them of things that are dying the whole belle-lettris- 
tic tradition of Renaissance culture perhaps, compelled to 
specialize more and more, more and more driven in on 
itself, as industrialism and democratic education have 
come to press it closer and closer they none the less 
break down the walls of the present and wake us to the 
hope and exaltation of the untried, unsuspected possibili- 
ties of human thought and art. 





1. NAVIRE D' ARGENT: 1925. 

Tell me, tell me, how could she cam through all her fellows, 
the daredevil? Linking one and knocking the next and polling it* 
and petering out and clyding by in the eastway. Who was the 
first that ever burst? Someone it was, whoever you are. Tinker, 
tailor, soldier, sailor, Paul Pry or polishman. That's the thing I 
always want to know. She can't put her hand on him for the 
moment. It's a long long way, walking weary! Such a long way 
backwards to row! She says herself she hardly knows who her 
graveller was or what he did or how young she played or when 
or where or how often he jumped her. She was just a young thin 
pale soft shy slim slip of a thing then, sauntering, and he was 
a heavy trudging lurching lieabroad of a Curraghman, making 
his hay for the sun to shine on, as tough as the oaktrees (peats be 
with them!) used to rustle that time down by the dykes of kill- 
ing Kildare, that forestfellfoss with a plash across her. She thought 
she'd sink under the ground with shame when he gave her the 
tiger's eye! 

2. TRANSITION: 1927. 

Tell me, tell me, how could she cam through all her fellows, the 
neckar she was, the diveline? Linking one and knocking the 
next, tapping a flank and tipping a jutty and palling in and peter- 
ing out and clyding by on her eastway. Wai-whou was the first 
that ever burst? Someone he was, whoever they were, in a tactic 
attack or in single combat. Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, Paul 
Pry or polishman. That's the thing I always want to know. Push 
up and push upper and come to headquarters! Was it waterlows 
year, after Grattan or Flood, or when maids were in Arc or when 



three stood hosting? Faith will find where the Doubt arises like 
Nemo from Nirgends found the Nihil. Worry you sighin foh, 
Albern, O Anser? Untie the gemman's fistiknots, Qwic and 
Nuancee? She can't put her hand on him for the moment. It's a long 
long way, walking weary! Such a long way backwards to row! 
She says herself she hardly knows whuon the annals her graveller 
was, a dynast of Leinster, a wolf of the sea, or what he did or 
how young she played or when and where and how often he 
jumnped her. She was just a young thin pale soft shy slim slip of 
a thing then, sauntering, and he was a heavy trudging lurching 
lieabroad of a Curraghman, making his hay for the sun to shine 
on, as tough as the oaktrees (peats be with them!) used to rustle 
that time down by the dykes of killing Kildare, that forstfellfoss 
with a plash across her. She thought she'd sink under the ground 
with nymphant shame when he gave her the tigris eye! 

3. "ANNA LIVIA PLURIBELLE," a small book published in 1928. 

Tell me, tell me, how cam she camlin through all her fellows, 
the neckar she was the divelinc? Linking one and knocking the 
next, tapting a flank and tipting a jutty and palling in and pietar- 
ing out and clyding by on her eastway. Waiwhou was the first 
thurever burst? Someone he was, whuebra they were, in a tactic 
attack or in single combat. Tinker, tilar, souldrer, salor, Pieman 
Peace or Polistaman. That's the thing I always want to know. 
Push up and push upper and come to headquarters 1 Was it 
waterlows year, after Grattan or Flood, or when maids were in 
Arc or when three stood hosting? Fidaris will find where the 
Doubt arises like Nieman from Nirgends found the Nihil. Worry 
you sighin foh, Albern, O Anser? Untie the gemman's fistiknots, 
Qvic and Nuancee? She can't put her hand on him for the mo- 
ment. Tez thelon langlo, walking weary! Such a loon way back- 
wards to row! She says herself she hardly knows whuon the an- 
nals her graveller was, a dynast of Leinster, a wolf of the sea, or 
what he did or how blyth she played or how, when, why, where 
and who off on he jumnpad her. She was just a young thin pale 
soft shy slim slip of a thing then, sauntering, by silvamoonlake, 



and he was a heavy trudging lurching lieabroad of a Curragh- 
man, making his hay for whose sun to shine on, as tough as the 
oaktrces (peats be with them!) used to rustle that time down by 
the dykes of killing Kildare, for forstfellfoss with a plash across 
her. She thought she's sankh neathe the ground with nymphant 
shame when he gave her the tigris eye! 




At the beginning of *he year 1920, I arrived back in Paris, 
extremely glad to see my friends again. I took part in the demon- 
strations which aroused the rage of the Parisian public, in com- 
pany with Aragon, Breton, Dermee, Eluard, Ribemont-Dessaignes, 
Picabia, Peret, Soupault, Rigaut, Marguerite Buffet and others. 
The debut of Dadaism in Paris took place on the twenty-third of 
January, at the matinee organized by the Dadaist review Uttira- 
ture. Louis Aragon, a slender young man with feminine features, 
A. Breton, whose behavior displays the stigmata of the religious 
sectarians, G. Ribemont-Dessaignes, a man whose simple appear- 
ance conceals the fiery temper of the great accusers of humanity, 
and Philippe Soupault, whose facility of expression flows forth in 
bizarre images, gave readings from their works. Picabia, who has 
undergone so many influences, particularly those of the clear and 
powerful mind of Marcel Duchamp, exhibited a number of pic- 
tures, one of which was a drawing done in chalk on a blackboard 
and erased on the stage; that is to say, the picture was valid for 
only two hours. As for me, announced as "Dada," I read aloud 
a newspaper article while an electric bell kept ringing so that no 
one could hear what I said. This was very badly received by the 
public, who became exasperated and shouted: "Enough! Enough!" 
An attempt was made to give a futuristic interpretation to this 
act, but all that I wanted to convey was simply that my presence 
on the stage, the sight of my face and my movements, ought to 
satisfy people's curiosity and that anything I might have said 
really had no importance. 

At the Grand Palais des Champs Elys^es, thousands of persons 

* A partial translation of these appeared in Vanity Fair, to which I axe 
indebted for permission to republisb them. 



of all classes manifested very uproariously it is impossible to saj 
exactly what their joy or their disapproval, by unexpected cries 
and general laughter, which constituted a very pretty accompani- 
ment to the manifestoes read by six people at once. The ncw5u 
papers said that an old man in the audience gave himself up to 
behavior of a character more or less intimate, that somebody set 
off some flashlight powder and that a pregnant woman had to be 
taken out. It is true that the papers had also announced that 
Charlie Chaplin was going to deliver a lecture on Dada. Although 
we denied the rumor, there was one reporter who followed me 
everywhere. He thought that the celebrated actor was up to some 
new stunt and was planning a surprise entrance. I remember with 
tenderness that Picabia, who was to have taken part in the demon- 
stration, disappeared as soon as it began. For five hours it was im- 
possible to find him. The stance ended with a speech by "The 
King of the Fakirs," M. Buisson, who has a curious occupation: 
he predicts the future every day to those who wish to listen to 
him, on the Boulevard de la Madeleine. In the evening he sells 
papers at the Metro exits. 

Several days afterwards, there took place in a church which 
had been transformed into a cinema premises of the Club du Fau- 
bourg at the invitation of that association, which includes more 
than three thousand workers and intellectuals, an explanation of 
the Dadaist Movement. There were four of us on the stage: 
Ribemont-Dessaignes, Aragon and Breton; and I. M. L&> Pold&s 
presided. On this occasion, the audience were more serious: they 
listened to us. Their disapproval was expressed in shrill cries. 
Raymond Duncan, the philosopher who walks about Paris in the 
costume of Socrates, was there with all his school. He came to 
our defense and quieted the audience. A debate followed. The 
very best Socialist orators took sides and spoke for or against us. 
We replied to the attacks and the audience boiled in unison. 
Aragon wrote a moving article on that memorable matinee in 
Lcs Ecrits Nouveaux. 

A week later, a public debate on Dada took place at the Uni- 
versit Populaire. Eluard, Fraenkel, Denude, Breton, Ribemont- 
Dessaignes, Soupault and I participated with all the force of our 



temperaments in a seance torn by political passions. All the mani- 
festoes of the presidents appeared in the Dadaist review, Littera- 
ture it is well known that the Dadaist Movement has three hun- 
dred and ninety-one presidents and that anyone can become a 
president without the slightest trouble. 

597 was also the name of a review which several of us started; 
it expanded and became a periodical of world-wide reputation. Peo- 
ple finally became afraid of it, because it described things as they 
really were without any attempt to soften them. How many 
critics came to regret having uttered so many imbecilities! 

A scandal provoked by the hypocrisy of certain Cubists in the 
bosom of a modern art society brought on the complete schism 
between the Cubists and the Dadas an event which gave great 
force of cohesion to the nineteen dissenting Dadaists. 

Paul Eluard, whom we call the inventor of a new metal of 
darkness, began to publish his review Proverbe in which all the 
Dadaists collaborated and which contributed a vein of its own. It 
was chiefly a matter of contradicting logic and language. This is 
how Soupault characterizes the collaborators of Proverbe: 

Louis Aragon, the Glass Syringe. 

Arp, Clean Wrinkles. 

Andre Breton, the Glass of Water in a Storm. 

Paul Eluard, the Nurse of the Stars. 

Th. Fraenkel, the Great Earth Serpent. 

Benjamin Peret, the Lemon Mandarin. 

G. Ribemont-Dessaignes, the Steam Man. 

Jacques Rigaut, the Hollow Plate. 

Philippe Soupault, the Musical Urinal. 

Tristan Tzara, the Man with the Pearl Head. 

Dadaist hand-bills and books were spreading the agitation through 
Paris and the whole world. 

In the month of May, the demonstration at the Theatre de 
TCEuvre, that courageous enterprise directed by Lugne-Poe, 
showed the vitality of Dada at its height. Twelve hundred people 



were turned away. There were three spectators for every seat; 
it was suffocating. Enthusiastic members of the audience had 
brought musical instruments to interrupt us. The enemies of 
Dada threw down from the balconies copies of an anti-Dada 
paper called Non in which we were described as lunatics. The 
scandal reached proportions absolutely unimaginable. Soupault 
proclaimed: "You are all idiots! You deserve to be presidents of 
the Dadaist Movement!" Breton, with the house completely dark, 
read in his thunderous voice a manifesto far from gentle toward 
the audience. Then Ribemont-Dessaignes read a soothing and 
complimentary manifesto. Paul Eluard presented some "exam' 
pies." I will give one: the curtain goes up; two people, one o/ 
them with a letter in his hand, appear from opposite sides of the 
stage and meet in the centre; the following dialogue takes place: 

"Le bureau de poste est en face." 

" Que voulez vous que qa me fasse?" 

"Pardon, je vous voyais une lettre a la main. Je croyais . . " 

" // ne s'agit fas de croire, mats de savoir." 

After which, each goes his way, and the curtain falls. There were 
six of these examples, very widely varied, in which the mixture of 
humanity, idiocy and unexpectedness contrasted curiously with 
the brutality of the other numbers. I invented on the occasion of 
this performance a diabolical machine composed of a klaxon and 
three successive invisible echoes, for the purpose of impressing on 
the minds of the audience certain phrases describing the aims of 
Dada. The ones which created the most sensation were: "Dada is 
against the high cost of living," and "Dada is a virgin microbe/* 
We also produced three short plays by Soupault, Breton and Ribe- 
mont-Dessaignes and "La Premiere Aventure Celeste de M. Anti- 
pyrine," which I had written in 1916. This play is a boxing match 
with words. The characters, confined in sacks and trunks, recite 
their parts without moving, and one can easily imagine the effect 
this produced performed in a greenish light on the already ex- 
cited public. It was impossible to hear a single word of the play. 
Mile. Hania Routchine was to have sung at the end of the play 



a sentimental song by Duparc. The audience either took this for 
a sacrilege or considered that a thing so simple it was intended 
to produce a contrast was out of place on this occasion; in 
any case, they did not restrain their language. Mile. Routchinc, 
v/ho was accustomed to the great successes of the Vaudeville, did 
not understand the situation and, after exchanging some ameni- 
ties with the public, refused to finish the song. For two hours we 
could hardly calm her, for she wept wildly. 

At the Salle Gaveau, at the Dada Festival, the scandal was also 
great. For the first time in the history of the world, people threw 
at us, not only eggs, salads and pennies, but beefsteaks as well, 
It was a very great success. The audience were extremely Dadaist. 
We had already said that the true Dadaists were against Dada. 
Philippe Soupault appeared as a magician. As he called the names 
of the Pope, Clemenceau and Foch, children's balloons came out 
of a large box and floated up to the ceiling. Paul Souday in his 
notice in Lc Temps said that really, at a certain distance, the 
faces of the persons summoned actually appeared on the surfaces 
of the balloons. The audience was so excited and the atmosphere 
so overcharged that a number of other ideas merely suggested took 
on the appearance of reality. Ribemont-Dessaignes did a motion- 
less dance and Mile. Buffet interpreted some Dadaist music. A 
flashlight taken by the newspaper Comccdia during a performance 
of a play by me shows everybody in the house waving their arms 
and with their mouths open shouting. 

All the Paris celebrities were present. Mme. Rachilde had writ- 
ten an article in a newspaper inviting some poilu to shoot us with 
a revolver. This did not prevent her a year later from appearing 
on the stage and defending us. She no longer regarded us as a 
danger to the esprit franfais. They did not kill us in the Salle 
Gaveau, but all the journalists tried to do so in their notices. 
Columns were written declaring that Dada wasn't to be talked 
about any more which suggested this observation to Jean Paul- 
han [the following is in English in the original]: 

"If you must speak of Dada you must speak of Dada. 
If you must not speak of Dada you must still speak of Dada." 

Among the other Dadaist reviews, Cannibalc had a great sue- 


cess: it developed the absolutely anti-literary point of view which 
will be the relativist point of view of future generations. The 
superabundance of life of these future generations will find its 
place in the movement, and they will forget the rigid conven- 
tions, the paralyzed ideas, of a tradition which is nothing but 


* * * 

After France, the country tormented most by this impulse which 
knows no frontiers has been Germany. Already in 1918, Huelsen- 
beck, a vigorous and intelligent man and a poet of talent, who 
had assisted at the foundation of Dada in Zurich, brought the 
Dadaist verities into Germany with the zeal of a true apostle. He 
found there enthusiastic friends: George Grosz, who had lived in 
America, and who expressed in his drawings the tumultuous life 
of the great American cities, W. Heartfield, a sensitive poet, and 
Raoul Haustnann, who interests himself only in life. They had 
long been convinced of the guilt of the Kaiser in bringing on the 
war, and their relations with Liebknecht, Professor Nicolai and 
the pacifists were a secret to no one. The many demonstrations 
which they organized had a great influence and they can boast of 
having helped to bring on the German revolution. 

They have their newspapers, their publishing house and a 
Dada Club, which soon brought to light great talents the song 
writer, W. Mehring, for example; the painter, Mile. H. Hoech; 
the philosopher, Daimonides, etc., etc. They have organized inter- 
national expositions, and tours of the principal German cities. 
These tours came to a very bad end: if it had not been for the 
intervention of the police, the Dadaists would have been killed by 
their audiences. At Hanover, where the crowd took possession of 
their baggage, they had to get out of town as fast as possible. At 
Dresden, their cash-box was confiscated. When an opera singer 
who had nothing to do with Dada made an attempt to calm the 
audience, she was beaten up by the angry mob. At Prague, the 
scandal took on such proportions that the Czechoslovak govern* 
mcnt was forced to drive the Dadaists out and to forbid any 
Dadaist demonstration on CzechoSlovakian territory. 



I have not yet spoken of Baader, who is the head of the Dadaist 
religion. He has had visions: Jesus Christ has appeared to him 
several times. The number of his adepts is enormous. He has also 
played a political role. At Weimar he threw proclamations into 
the parliament and interrupted the sitting by accusing the new 
revolutionary Germany of being inspired by the reactionary ideas 
of Goethe and Schiller. Baader, who calls himself the President of 
the World, is the father of three children. He has twice been 
locked up by mistake in a lunatic asylum. He is not an especially 
interesting man, but certainly a very genial one. On the occasion 
of the death of his wife, he delivered a long oration to the three 
thousand people at the funeral, contending that death is essentially 
a Dadaist affair. He was wearing a smile on his lips. He had, none 
the less, been very fond of his wife. The same day he cut off his 
beard, which had been that of a true apostle. 

Huelsenbeck is at present a doctor and journalist at Danzig. He 
is a great lover of America, whose praises he has sung in three 
books: "Dada the Conqueror," "Forward Dada!" and "Germany 
Must Go." The last Dadaist exposition at Berlin came to a very 
bad end: the Minister of War brought an indictment against the 
men who had organized it for having insulted the German offi- 
cers "by deformations and tendencious inscriptions." The defenses 
of some of the Dadaists are masterpieces of malice and irony. 

Another group lives in Cologne, Dada W. 3. Max Ernst, 
painter and poet, has made a great many Dadaist discoveries. 
His paintings bear the same relation to painting that the mov- 
ing-pictures do to photography fresh and direct realizations of 
a mind which owes nothing to the researches of its predecessors. 
His intelligence is fine and distinguished; it is plain that he is an 
enthusiastic Alpine climber. We call him the inventor of the 
mystery on rollers. Baargeld, a young millionaire, was a Bolshe- 
vist before being converted to Dadaism. His specialty is method- 
ology. He was brought up in the love of Stendhal, for whom his 
father has more than admiration. The "Rosa Bonheur of the 
Dadaists" has done some very amusing things in painting. Job 
Haubrich contributes to their efforts with a sincere enthusiasm. 
Their organ is called Die Schammade. They have obtained 



from the city of Cologne two very important concessions: they 
have been allowed to hold an exposition in a public urinal, with 
free admission; and the city has published at its own expense a 
handsome album of Dada lithographs by Max Ernst. Ernst has 
founded with Arp, of whom I shall speak in a moment, a society 
for the manufacture of "Fatagaga" pictures. The dissenting Dada- 
ists have grouped themselves under the name of "Stupid" [sic]. 
K. Schwitters is not an absolutely pure Dadaist. He lives in 
Hanover it seems that he has quite an original turn of mind. 
The publisher Stegemann at Hanover has sold more than four 
hundred thousand little Dada books. 

Dada has no adepts in England, but it is very well known 
there. M. A. Binnyon has given a lecture on Dadaism and F. S. 
Flint has written a brochure about us. 

In Russia, the Dadaists call themselves "41": Zdanevitch, 
Krutchony and Terentiev. They are abstract and very productive. 
The first-mentioned is professor of Dadaism at the University of 

In Holland, Dada has fervent adherents: J. K. Bonset at Leyden 
and Th. van Doesburg, who will come to the defense of Dada in 
a forthcoming book. Their review appears in several languages 
and is called Mecano. P. Citroen and Bloomficld have made Am- 
sterdam their base of operations. 

Dada has received much attention in Spain. Its promoters are 
Jacques Edwards, Guillermo de Torre, Lasso de la Vega and 
Cansmo d'Assens. 

In Rome, Dada is philosophical, distinguished, fastidious and 
skeptical with the Baron J. Evola; in Milan and Mantua, deter- 
mined and trenchant with Cantarelli, Fiozzi and Bacchi grouped 
about the Blue Review. Tired of the single-track ideas of Mari- 
netti, these young men are getting away from Futurism and from 
the other artistic formulas. 

Arp still lives in Switzerland, at Zurich: he is Alsatian, his 
mother is French. He is one of my best friends. He has illustrated 
two books of my poems. He is one of the most sympathetic men 
I have ever met. He wears shoes specially made for him at Ascona. 
They look like hippopotamuses* feet and have a pretty design in 


leather. The stories that he tells have an irresistible gaiety. The 
reliefs he has done represent imaginary solidified vegetations, and 
his drawings: embroidery, rain and the sleep of marine insects 
and crystal fingers. Mile. Tcuber has made for a marionette theatre 
puppets representing Dadaists and psychoanalysts like Dr. Jung. 
The painter Augusto Giacometti is too old to be a genuine Dada- 
ist. He has declared that Dada is the sole joy of his life. Dada 
is known throughout the world. I have been able to observe for 
myself in the course of a trip that Dada is as well known in 
Switzerland as at Milan, Venice, Belgrade, Vincovtch, Bucharest, 
Jassy, Constantinople, Athens, Messina, Naples and Rome. On the 
Acropolis, a professor of theology was telling me, as he shook his 
fists toward the Wingless Victory, that God would avenge him- 
self on Dada and all these newfangled ideas. I had good reason to 
know he spoke truly: I caught a cold which made me miserable 
for three weeks. 

At Constantinople, I talked with a Greek doctor who had lived 
in Paris, and who didn't know who I was. He told me that he 
knew Tristan Tzara very well. Calmly, in spite of my amazement, 
I asked him what Tzara looked like. "He is tall and blond," he 
replied. I couldn't keep from laughing, because I am small and 




Adam, Villicrs dc 1'Isle, 22, 23, 259, 

264, 265, 269 
Ahcrne, Owen, 266 
Alain, 81 
A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, 

132, 164, 166, 171, 175-181; 185, 

187, 190, 204, 266, 267 
Aldington, Richard, 114 
Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 16 
A I'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur, 

I35 136 

Ambassadors, The, 102 
Among School Children, 62, 76, 108 
Anderson, Sherwood, 238, 252, 288 
Anima Mundi, 49 
Annabel Lee, 14 
Anna Livia Plurabelle, 231 
Apeneck Sweeney, 103 
Apparition, 64 
Aristotle, 124 
Arms and the Man, 60 
Arnold, Matthew, 17 
Ars Poetica, 120 
Ashford, Daisy, 288 
Ash-Wednesday, 128, 130 
Aspects of Science, 79 
Axel, 259, 265, 287, 289 

Balzac, 122 

Bastien-Lcpage, 40 

Baudelaire, 12, 13, 16, 51, 255 

Beardsley, 51 

Beast in the Jungle, The, 102 

Bell, Clive, 99, 123 

Bennett, Arnold, 191, 218, 286 

Berenice, 2 

Bergeret, M., 91 

Bergotte, 186, 187 

Bergson, 157 

Bibesco, Prince Antoine, 167 

Bibesco, Princess Marthe, 167 

Blake, 4, 26, 51, 60, no, 120, 131 

Blanche, Jacques-Emile, 171 

Blavatsky, Madame, 47 

Bouvard ct Pccuchet, 9, 100 

Brand, 9 

Bridge of San Luis Rcy, The, 190 

Browning, 7, 16, 17 

Burbank with a Baedeker: Blcistein 

with a Cigar, 100, 101 
Butler, Samuel, 46 
Byron, 2, 4, 11, 23, 117, 255 

Cantos, 109 

Carlyle, 215 

Carroll, Lewis, 227 

Casper Hauser, 95 

Ccndrars, Blaise, 288 

Charmes, 77, 81, 83 

Chateaubriand, 211 

Chekov, 112, 190 

Chevauchee d'Yeldis, 16 

Childe Harold, 2 

Chopin, 103 

Cimitiere Marin, 108, 154 

Classical period, the, 3 

Classicism, i, 2, 7, 15, 294 

Claudcl, Paul, 18 

Cocteau, Jean, 288 

Coleridge, 12, 15, 17, 121, 246, 267 

Collins, William, 124 

Comedie Humaine, 210 

Complaintes, 96 

Congreve, 2 

Conrad, 193 

Conversation Galante, 96 

Cooking Egg, A, 101 

Corbiere, Tristan, 93-99, 254, 269 

Crane, Nathalia, 288 

Crashaw, 158 

Cunard, Nancy, 114 

Dadaism, 253-256, 284 

Damon, Foster, 223 

D'Annunzio, 23 

Dans le Restaurant, 105 

Dante, 37, 51, 82, 107, no, 117, 

118, 119, 122, 127, 164 
Daudet, Lucien, 188 
Dead, The, 209 
Debussy, 72 

dc Caillavct, Gaston, 169 
de Caillavet, Mme., 86 
Degas, Edgar, 18 
de Gourmont, Remy, 18, 22 
de Gramont, Mme., 175 



de Lisle, Lecpnte, 7, 10 

dc Massot, Pierre, 284 

de Miomandrc, Francis, 71 

de Musset, Alfred, 15, 117 

de Nerval, Gerard, n, 19, 107 

De Quincey, 13 

de Rcgnicr, Henri, 18 

Dernicrs Vcrs, 99 

Descartes, 3, 83 

Desdichado, 1, 107 

DCS Esseintes, 264 

dc Vigny, Alfred, 4, 257, 258, 267 

Dickens, Charles, 122, 137, 138, 177, 


Divina Commedia, 118 
Donne, 117 
Dormcuse, La, 73, 75 
Dostocvsky, 132, 177 
Dowson, 44, 47 
Dream Play, The, 42 
Dreyfus, 86, 89, 188 
Dryden, 46, 116, 117 
Dubliners, 191, 192, 209 
Ducasse, Isidore, 254, 255, 269 
Du Cote* de chez Swann, 134, 137 
Dumas, Alexandre, 51 
Durand, Carolus, 40 

Earwickcr, H. C., 267 

Eddington, 289 

Einstein, 22, 163 

Elegy in a Country Churchyard, 154 

Eliot, George, 136, 162 

Eliot, T. S., i, 24, 45, 46* 93-i3i> 

205, 244, 289, 290, 294 
Emerson, 12, 120, 136 
Essays on Men and Manners, 124 

FalstaflF, 138 

Farewell to Arms, A, 252 

Faust, 265 

Flaubert, 8, 9, n, 46, 100, 144, 191, 

203, 204, 294 

For Launcelot Andrcwes, 125 
France, Anatole, 84, 85, 88, 144, 

168, 190, 286, 294 

Gauss, 295 
Gautier, 7, 98, 268 
Geography and Plays, 243 
Georgics, The, 120 
Gerontion, 99, 106, no, 114, 266, 


Gide, Andre*, 18, 69, 181, 257, 2bd 

Gilbert, Stuart, 211, 213 

Giorgione, 51, 53 

Goethe, 82 

Gongora, 158 

Gosse, Sir Edmund, 115, 1x6 

Gray, 124, 154 

Great Gatsby, The, 190 

Great Wheel, The, 49 

Green Helmet, The, 34 

Guide, The, 60 

Gulliver's Travels, 2, 9 

Hahn, Reynaldo, 168 

Happy Townland, The, 31 

Hardy, 136 

Hauptmann, 112 

Have They Attacked Mary He Gig* 

glcd A Political Satire, 243 
Hawthorne, 12, 102 
Heartbreak House, 190 
Hemingway, Ernest, 117, 252 
H^dia, 7 

Hippopotamus, The, 98 
Histoire Contemporaine, 91 
Histoirc de la Litterature Francaise 

Contemporaine, 258 
Hollow Men, The, 128 
Homer, 82, 121, 193 
Hugo, Victor, 9, 15 
Humanists, the, 126 
Huxley, Thomas, 215 
Huysmans, 10, 18, 48, 49, 94, 264, 


Ibsen, Henrik, 8, 9, 10, 23, 112, 
189, 294 

Illuminations, 274 

Imaginary Portraits, 264 

Imitation de Notre-Dame la Lune, 96 

Intelligent Woman's Guide to So- 
cialism and Capitalism 'Hie, 59, 


Intc"rieur, 73 

Introduction to the Method of Leo- 
nardo da Vinci, 67, 80 

Jabberwocky, 227, 228, 246 
James, Henry, 102, 137 
Jeffrey, 23 

Johnson. Dr., 15, 44, 47 
Journey of the Magi, The, no 


Joyce, James, i, 24, 25, 191, 236, 

267, 286, 290, 295 
Jug Jug, 109 
Jung, 49 

Keats, 15, 23, 51, 53, 117 
Kipling, Rudyard, 45, 46 
Kubla Khan, 12, 246 

La Bruycre, 124 

La Confession d'une Jeune Fille, 174, 

176, 180 

La Faussc Morte, 73 
La Figlia Che Piange, 98, 105 
Laforguc, Jules, 18, 95, 96, 97, 99, 

100, 107, 109, 121, 254, 257, 264, 


La Jcunc Parque, 70, 71, 80, 84 
Lake of Innesfree, The, 38 
Lalou, F., 258, 265 
La Mort de Baldassare Silvande, 185 
L'Apres-midi d'un Faunc, 205 
La Prisonniere, 186 
Larbaud, Valery, 67 
La Rochefoucauld, 4, 9, 124 
La Tentation de Saint- Antoine, 100 
Lautreamont, Comtc de, 254 
Lawrence, D. H., 288 
Lawson, John Howard, 113 
Le Cimetiere Marin, 75, 76 
L' Education Sentimentale, 9, 100 
Legende, 97 

Le Jardin d'Epicurc, 88 
Lemaire, Madeleine, 168 
Lemcrre, 279 
Lc Misanthrope, 2 
Les Amours Jaunes, 93, 95 
Les Chants de Mai dor or, 254, 255 
Lcs Pas, 73 
Les Plaisirs et les Jours, 168, 171, 

179, 188 

Les Poetcs Maudits, 95 
Lc Temp Retrouve, 185 
Le Temps, 171, 280 
Lewis, Wyndham, 113, 287 
Lockhart, 23 
Lohengrin, 264 
Louys, Pierre, 18 
Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 

The, 96^-98 

Lucretius, 118, 119, 120 
Lune de Micl, zoi 

Machiavelli, 127 

Madame Bovary, 9, 100, 122 

Maeterlinck, 23, 42 

Making of Americans, The, 239, 

Mallarme, Stc'phanc, 10, 16-28, 32, 

64-72, 82, 85, 93, 96, 121, 205, 

264, 269, 275, 284, 295 
Man Who Dreamed of Fairyland, 

The, 29; quoted, 30, 31 
Manilius, 120 
Mann, Thomas, 268 
Marius the Epicurean, 258 
Masefield, 114 
Maupassant, 191, 203 
Maxims, La Rochefoucauld's, 4 
Melville, 12 
Merrill, Stuart, 16 
Michelet, 14 
Middleton, Thomas, 99 
Milton, 15, 108, 109, 116 
Miss Furr and Miss Skcene, 243 
Moliere, 2, 15 
Moore, George, 18, 19 
More, Paul Elmer, 116 
Moreas, Jean, 18 
Morris, William, 269 
Mr. and Mrs. Elliot, 252 
Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service, 

96, 101 

M. Teste, 72, 78, 91, 266, 267 
Myshkin, 177 

Naturalism, 6-8, 10, 24, 25, 40, 42, 
43, 59, 178* 204, 205, 265, 268, 
293, 294 

Newton, 3 

Nietzsche, 120, 189 

O'Cascy, Scan, 42 

Odyssey, The, 192, 193, 195, 198 

On a Picture of a Black Centaur, 

quoted, 27 

O'Neill, Eugene, 238 
Origin of Species, The, 6 
Our Mutual Friend, 139 
Outline of Royal ism, The, 125 
Owl and the Pussycat, The, 246 

Packet for Ezra Pound, A, 55 

Paradise Lost, 108 

Paria, 9-5 

Parker, Dorothy, 190 

Parnassians, The, 7, 8, 20 


Pastiches et Melanges, 180 

Pater, Walter, 32, 33, 258, 264, 269, 


Peer Gynt, 9 

Per Arnica Silentia Lunae, 47, 55 
Pervigilium Veneris, 107 
Pierrot Fumiste, 254 
Plato, 119, 124 
Poe, Edgar Allan, 13-19, 121, 246; 

influence on French Literature, 12 
Pope, 10, 15, 116; quoted, 8 
Portrait of a Lady, 96, 98, 102, 103 
Portrait of Mabel Dodge, 241 
Portrait of the Artist as a Young 

Man, A, 191-193, 206, 209, 220, 

224, 226 

Pound, Ezra, 100, 109, in, 113 
Pouquet, Jeanne, 168, 180, 181 
Prelude, The, 2 
Principles of Modern Heresy, The, 


Processional, 113 
Profusion du Soir, 64 
Proust, Marcel, i, 23, 46, 132-190, 

209, 215, 216, 221, 267, 286, 289, 

290, 292, 294 
Prufrock, 102, 103, 106, 114, 205 

Rabelais, 14, 51 

Racine, 2, 3, 8, 9, 15 

Rapsodic Forainc, 96 

Read, Herbert, 123 

Red Hanrahan, 29 

Rembrandt, 52 

Renaissance, The, 33 

Renan, 122 

Rene, 2 

Richards, I. A., 123 

Rimbaud, 10, 85, 269-298 

Robartes, Michael, 61, 266, 267 

Rogozhin, 177 

Rolla, 2 

Holland, Remain, 286 

Romances sans Paroles, 274 

Romantic Movement, of the nine- 
teenth century, i, 7, 16, 23; as ex- 
plained by A N. Whitehcad, 3-6. 

Romanticism, i, 2, 7, 9, 10, n, 13, 
20, 80, 95, 117, 122, 179, 265, 
270, 294 

Rondels pour Apres, 95 

Ronsard, 14 

Rosa Alchemica, 31, 32 

Rosmersholm, 9 

Rossetti, 26 

Rousseau, 268 

Ruskin, 122, 123, 132, 137 

Sacred Wood, The, 118, 122; 

edition of, 125, 127 
Saint-Antoine, 9 
Saintc-Bcuve, 122 
Saintsbury, George, 115 
Salammbo, 100 
Sand, George, 133, 161 
Scheikevitch, Mme., 169, 170, 182 
School of Donne, The, 125 
Science and the Modern World, 3 
Sentiments Filiaux d'un Parrijcia'e, 

1 80 

Shadowy Waters, The, 26 
Shakespeare, 14, 15, 82, 107, no, 

Shaw, George Bernard, 45, 46, 59, 

60, 88, 112, 246-249, 268, 286, 

Shelley, 15, 40, 51, 114, 117, 118, 


Shenstone, William, 124 
Sinclair, May, 108 
Skylark, The, 118 
Sodome et Gomorrhe, 181 
Song of Simeon, The, 114 
Soutzo, Princess, 170 
Stein, Gertrude, i, 24, 25, 129, 237- 

256, 267, 295, 296 
Stendhal, 144 

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 38, 136 
Strachey, Lytton, 123 
Strindberg, August, 42 
Sullivan, J. W. N., 79 
Sun Also Rises, The, 190, 252 
Surrealisme, 256 
Sweeney Among the Nightingales, 

101, no 
Swift, 2, 8, 60 
Symbolism, 10-26, 32, 40, 42, 64, 

70, 80, 86, 87, 90, 93, 96, 132, 

i57 *77 204, 205, 207, 243, 245, 

254* 255 257, 265, 266, 269, 290, 

293* 294, 296 
Symons, Arthur, 18, 26 
Synge, 43, 52 

Taine, 6, 122 
Taupin. M. Rene*, gi 



Tender Buttons, 242 

Tennyson, 7, 8 

Thackeray, 190 

The Criterion, 113 

Thibaudet, Albert, 19, 123 

Three Lives, 238, 239 

io Damascus, 42 

Tolstoi, 189 

Tower, The, 61, 62 

Transition, 225 

Trembling of the Veil, The, 45, 47 

Trois Contes, 100 

Tzara, Tristan, 254 

Ulalumc, 14, 246 

Ulysses, 192-194, 196, 203-227, 233, 
234, 294 

Une Saison en Enfer, 274, 275, 277 

United States Courts-Martial Manu- 
al, quoted, 249-251 

Useful Knowledge, 243 

Valery, Paul, i, 17, 18, 23, 64-92, 
96, 108, 113, 117-121, 154, 244, 
246, 266, 284-286, 289, 292, 294- 

Van Vechten, Carl, 238 

Vauvenargues, 124 

Verlaine, Paul, 16, 95, 269, 272-277, 

Viele-Griffin, Francis, 16, 17, 18, 257 

Villiers, see Adam 

Villon, Francois, 95 

Virgil, 82, 120, 122 

Vision, A, 49, 52, 54, 55, 57, 59, 

60, 246 
Voltaire, 15, 60 

Wagner, 19, 189 

Walton's Lives, 46 

Wanderings of Oisin, The, 26, 29 

Wanna Go Home, Baby, 113 

Waste Land, The, 104, 106, 107, 

108, 109, no, in, 113, 114, 125, 

128, 266 

Way of the World, The, 2 
Webster, John, 99 
Wells, H. G., 19, 268, 286, 294 
West, Rebecca, 223 
Wharton, Edith, 102, 163, 190 
Whispers of Immortality, 99 
Whistler, 1 8 
Whitehead, A. N., 3, 5, 6, n, 157, 

158, 221 

Whitman, 12, 51 
Whittier, 110 
Wilde, Oscar, 18, 46 
Wind among the Reeds, The, 26, 28 
Woolf, Virginia, 123 
Wordsworth, 2, 4, 5, 10, n, 23, 124 

Yeats, W. B., i, 18, 23-63, 76, 88, 
96, 108, 113, 130, 244-248, 258: 
266, 283, 286, 290, 291 

Zola, 6, 7